Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Miriam Merlo 'La Osa', an ex cartonera, producing some book covers

Alejandro Miranda, from Eloisa Cartonera, producing an edition of Copi's 'La Guerra de las Mariquitas'

Eloísa Cartonera Publishing House

We are Eloísa Cartonera, a work cooperative in the neighborhood of La Boca in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. We produce handmade books with cardboard covers. We purchase this cardboard from the urban cardboard pickers (cartoneros) who collect it from the streets. The books we publish are of Latin American literature, the most beautiful ones we've had a chance to read in our lives.

It all began with the crisis of 2001 - as some say "we are a product of the crisis," or that we "aestheticized misery". Actually, it was nothing like that. We were a group of people who came together to work in a different way, to learn new things through work, to build up a cooperative, to learn how to subsist and manage ourselves, to work towards a common good. Like many of the movements and collectives born from these insane times, we organized into a cooperative or a small assembly group, as there were also neighbourhood and community groups, all sorts of social movements. People, workers and neighbours, there we were.

Through all this time we rejoice on the fact we were able to put so much love into the work we did. The previous catalogue already contained 100 titles - and today we are already reaching 200. They're the most varied and entertaining works of literature (poetry, short stories, short novels, theater plays, literature for children) from Argentina and sibling countries. This brings us true joy!

And how much this had to do with you, our dear friends and readers, whom supported us all this time, accepting our books, recommending them, spreading the word, getting in touch, stopping by. In short, always there for us. The most valuable a publishing house can have in addition to good books, of course, is a group of good friends and dedicated readers. Thank you for always expecting a new title!

Our dream is to edit the complete stories of Rodolfo Walsh, an Argentine writer, an intellectual amongst the people, a formidable journalist killed by the military in 1976. Walsh, along with Urondo Francisco, Bustos, Conti or Santoro, is one of our leading intelectuals, and we should all be discovering and praising their work.

We want to get ourselves a piece of land, stop paying rent and organize our own headquarters. So many things ...

Today we can say that we are a product of all the work we have done, and we thrive for our work to serve all. Making books, or in the future doing other things, that is the spirit of our endeavor. To translate our work into experience, a place that serves many colleagues more. We do not want to close a circle around ourselves. We welcome new colleagues, fresh ideas, look for ways to do more, or better. That's why our "carto" (as we lovingly call it, a diminutive from "cartonera") is an open space for everyone. We hope and live the revolution of the people!

Eloísa Cartonera was born in 2003, in those furious days when people took the streets, protesting, fighting, gathering in neighborhood assemblies, the barter clubs, all sorts of communal and collaborative endeavours. In those days, both men as women lost their jobs and headed to the streets, where they met each other, and we all met with the "cartoneros" (cardboard pickers). It was summer, and Javier Barilaro and Washington Cucurto were busy producing some colourful poetry books. Eloísa was the name of a charming Bolivian Javier was in love with, and the name of the publishing house became an ode to her. The story tells that they never did get together, but despite all that Javier and his friends went on producing beautiful and love-inspired books. Thank you, Eloísa, for your beauty!

Then one day came Fernanda ... an yellow late afternoon, a pink bike, and a green skirt, like spring itself. She proposed to open an workshop at Guardia Vieja street. That was how Eloísa Cartonera was born, in the spring of 2003. We first started selling both books as well as vegetables. We were an imediate success both in our neighborhoud as well as in the world press. Newspapers and radios from all around the world came to take pictures with us. We started realising how beautiful our books were and how much people liked them...

We designed a very simple work system. Making a cartonero-book is quite simple, but let's not forget we do it all ourselves! The "cartoneros" bring the cardboard. To this we select, cut, paint, mount, glue, everything that a cartonero-book needs. We also print everything here, in an old German Multilit 1250, which we very slowly grow accostumed to, even if it not always works out so well.

We had to learn everything from scratch: our first book was published Pendejo, (Shameless) by Gabriela Bejerman. Gabriela is a beautiful poet, performer and latin pop singer. We have published so many bautiful books that it would be unfair to forget even one, so please consult the catalogue for more information.

We traveled all over the country from book fair to book fair, and got in touch with so many other realities. Thank you La Rioja, Mendonza, Trelew! Thank you Mar del Plata, Chaco, Córdoba! Thank you Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy! Greetings to Entre Rios, Reconsquita and Santa Fe! Overall, the best thing that happened to us, besides meeting all of you, was to become a cooperative. It was a true awakening to how work can become the best part of your life, and never an obligation, something unpleasant. It became a dream come true, to work in our project. We learned to trust one another and to be better partners, to strive for a common purpose, for something more than our own bellybutton. Cooperativism showed us our strength. That was how we learned everything we now know, and we remain eager to learn more.

We now have a new project. We will buy a piece of land in Florencio, in Varela. One hectare of land. We will build a house and start an organic food garden, and in the future a school and everything that might come to take us... We believe that we must return closer to the earth, reconcile with it and work from it. Land and labor can make the most beautiful clay sculpture. There we can cut our cardboard and mount thousands of beautiful books, with more and more friends.

You are invited ...! We wait for you!


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