Cartoneros, Writers + Artists: Eloisa Cartonera Books

You've all heard about Argentinean cartoneros, right? Cartoneros were born in the middle of the Argentinean crisis that exploded by 2001, when marginalized people started collecting cardboard to sell it to deposits for recycling. Sounds kind of good to us treehuggers, doesn't it? Well, the truth is that it's not really, as this work shouldn't be done by poor people who live out of it, especially when lots of those people are children.But that's not the point of this post. The thing is that a group of artists took this movement to another level and created a great alternative to add value and to expand the horizons of these people. That alternative is Eloisa Cartonera, a place where artists, writers and cartoneros cross their ideas to create different forms of cultural expressions, being the most practical recycled cardboard books.

For this they've created a 'publishing firm' which buys cardboard from cartoneros in the streets (this way they don't have to go sell it to La Plata, one train hour away from Buenos Aires city), and publishes avant garde material from new and classic Latin American writers from Argentina, Chile, México, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Brazil and Peru. The cardboard in the books is painted by young cartoneros.

People involved in the project include David, Daniel y Alberto Ramos, Gastón y Augusto, who paint and bind the books, cut cardboard and play 'cumbia' very loud; Javier Barilaro, a plastic artist who 'orders' the beauty of ideas; plastic artist and writer Fernanda Laguna, who manages, gets, asks and gives; inspirer, poet, editor and street seller Wáshington Cucurto, who has and realizes great ideas; great urban collectors who select first class cardboard; Pablo Martin, who "translates everything to 'internetic' language", as they claim; and Tomás Colombo, who registers everything in video. Clara Domini, a plastic artist and cartonera; Alberto Franco, who drives everyone crazy with spiritual lessons; Christopher Pimiento Zúñiga, who does everything nobody wants to do; and curator Victoria Ojeda, complete the group.

The authors, on the other side, give their writings to be published and also a hand for everything that's needed.

"Eloísa Cartonera seeks to invent an own aesthetic non judgemental with its participants origin, and trying to generate a mutual learning stimulating creativity", they say at their website. Cardboard is bought $1,50 a kilogram (when it's usually bought for $0,30) and cartoneros get $3 the work hour. If you want to add some Latin colour to your bookshop, they export for only 5 euros a copy, only that the minimum order is ten (which is not that much anyway).

In case you're thinking about coming to Argentina, Eloisa Cartonera functions at 4237 Guardia Vieja Street, city of Almagro. And in case you're thinking about going to Peru, you can visit Sarita Cartonera, an adaptation of Eloisa Cartonera's philosophy in Lima city. ::Eloisa Cartonera ::Sarita Cartonera (both sites in Spanish, but they've got e-mails for orders. If you're interested, e-mail us and we can make the hook up)


Peruvian version: Sarita Cartonera.


Painting of the books cover.