UW-Green Bay hosts innovative Argentine ‘cartonera’ publishers

Two principals of the Buenos Aires-based publishing house Eloísa Cartonera — which pioneered a new economic model with the unique art form known as cartonera books — are visiting UW-Green Bay this week for workshops, presentations and readings.

Founders María Gómez and Washington Cucurto will begin their five-day stay with a presentation at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, on the topic “Eloísa Cartonera: Ten Years of Artisanal Publishing in Latin America.” The event is free and open to the public and will take place at the Richard Mauthe Center, located near the central campus at 2418 Leon Bond Drive.

The Eloísa Cartonera cooperative originated in the early 2000s with the Argentine economy in crisis and people taking to the streets to scratch out a living. Among them were the so-called cartoneros, who scrounged containers and cardboard to recycle and re-sell. A group of artists, designers and writers — also hard hit by the economy but willing to lend support — developed a plan for a cooperative that would pay reasonable wages to the cartoneros and transform the waste cardboard into handmade art books to be sold at inexpensive prices.

Within a few years, Eloísa Cartonera had refined its concept of making literature more accessible, and both upcoming and established Latin American writers agreed to donate novels, stage plays and poems. The texts are manually bound inside creatively designed, individually painted cardboard covers.

In 2012, the cooperative was honored with a Prince Claus Award presented by a charitable foundation of the Dutch Royal Family to recognize outstanding achievement in cultural development. “Eloísa Cartonera came up with a collective response to a context of crisis, by combining art and creativity to promote expression and generate social and economic welfare,” the citation read. The cartonera model has now spread to dozens of cardboard publishers in Latin America and Africa.

Gómez and Cucurto will be featured in the following public programs:

•  5-7 p.m. Friday (Nov. 8) — Presentation and poetry reading on the topic “Eloísa Cartonera: Ten Years of Artisanal Publishing in Latin America,” at the Mauthe Center

•  7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 9) — “Resistance and Memory in Latin American Art,” at the public WC Gallery located in the residence of UW-Green Bay Curator of Art Stephen Perkins, 908 Talbot Ave., De Pere

•  5-7 p.m. Monday (Nov. 11) — A workshop, “How to Make Cartonero Books,” in the 1965 Room of the University Union

The visitors will also speak to the UW-Green Bay classes Latin America Today, and World Literature, on Tuesday.

The visit by Gómez and Cucurto ties in with a series of ongoing events and activities addressing the University’s 2013-14 Common Theme, “Global Citizenship in an Evolving Word.” Support was provided by the Office of International Education and the Humanistic Studies academic unit. Gabriel Saxton-Ruiz, assistant professor of Humanistic Studies, organized the visit.

For a video that describes Eloísa Cartonera, its history and work, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2lVI-ai68A

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