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Akademia Cartonera: A Primer of Latin American Cartonera Publishers (2009)

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Eloísa Cartonera (Argentina)

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Eloísa Cartonera was born in 2003 on one of those furious days when people filled the streets to protest and fight back, while the neighborhood assemblies and the bartering clubs came together. Do you remember the bartering clubs? Time flies by in this corner of the earth!

Those days men and women lost their jobs. They were dumped by the thousand onto the streets to search for something to “put in the pot”, as they say; and we met the cartoneros.

It was summer, Cucurto and Javier Barilaro were making those chapbooks full of colors and poetry, Ediciones Eloísa, named after that beautiful woman, descendent of Bolivians, who conquered the heart of Javier Barilaro and then was gone.

Thank you, Eloísa! With your beauty you captivated our friend who later created many books just like green leaves in spring.

Later, along with the unemployed, the bartering clubs, and the cartoneros who walked the streets with their carts full of boxes, the price rose for the paper we used to make the chapbooks, and the idea along with the need to change the system was born.

One day Fernanda arrived... it was a yellow afternoon, she was on a pink bicycle and she wore a green skirt like the spring, and she brought the idea of opening a workshop on Guardia Vieja Street.

That's how Eloísa Cartonera was born in the spring of 2003.

At first we sold books and vegetables. The novelty of what we were doing got around and we even became known in the international media. Journalists from every country in the world came to take one picture and we realized that our books were beautiful and that the people really wanted them…

Our plan was simple. A cartonero book is one of the easiest things in the world to make. Just imagine: if we can do it...

We buy cardboard from the cartoneros who come to the workshop with specially selected pieces. We cut and paint it and we paste it onto the inside of the book. We print on our Multilith 1250, which we're slowly learning how to use, with difficulties, but determined to figure it out some day soon…

And there it is! A cartonero book is easy and beautiful.

So many friends have stopped by. Maybe you know some of them, the great Alboroto, our mythical cameraman that filmed the first and never released movie, about us: Eloísa Cartonera: The Reader that Went Crazy, we would love to find it! Tomás, if you read this, come over to La Boca with the movie and we'll organize a screening on the street. Somehow we'll get a projector!

Thousands of compañeros: the Ramos brothers; Alberto, Victoria; the Portillo brothers; Marilin and Bato who wrote their thesis on Eloísa; Georgina and Magalí. Nicolás, the storyteller. Pablo Martín, who made our webpage, Cristian, Ramona, Juliancito, the doorman! Celia, Daniela, Franco, Germán, Manuel Alemián. And all the rest, I'm sure I'm forgetting so many others... but don't be angry, we'll keep you in our hearts like a treasure… Thank you those who came and those who are still to come! Thank you for being the way you are and for wanting to make things better!

Ale, Miriam “The Bear”, Juancito the King of salsa, Ricardo Piña, the River Plate poet, Leo, Cucu, María, our neighbors across the street, Lito, Mary, Abundio, Franco... There are so many of us in the carto... and so much happiness.

Why do we tell you? So that the world knows!

Because since that spring, we have never been alone.

We learned everything from scratch. We learned how to do the work, and we even invented it!

The first book that we published was Pendejo, by Gabriela Bejerman, the poet, performer, and Latin pop singer, gorgeous…

We edited a book by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, a privilege for any publishing house. And you already know Manuelito Alemián, Ricardo Piña, Andrés Caicedo, Fabián Casas and so many other writers of our time who are worth reading and discovering.

Enrique Lihn is a Chilean writer, a writer of the Americas, a writer who was in Peru and who wrote a book to Peru; he was in Cuba and… he dedicated a book to that country too!  He was in Buenos Aires, and wrote another book!  He is a poet of all of the countries, an American poet. We're going to edit an anthology of his work titled, Poeta y extranjero, and it will contain the five books that we edited in photocopies.

Our dream is to edit the complete short stories of Rodolfo Walsh, an Argentine writer, an intellectual of the people, a fantastic journalist killed by the Military in 1976, disappeared. Walsh, like Francisco Urondo, Bustos, Conti and Santoro is one of our most important men; one whose works we should all read and discover and fall in love with. Cardboard is life and everyone comes back in cardboard!

If Rodolfo Walsh were alive he would love all of this. And there are our lifelong friends: Aira; Martín Adán with his La casa de cartón; Juan Incardona with his prose, Fabián Casas with his short stories, Gonzalo Millán's poems, Ricardo Zelarayán's children's stories…

With our cardboard books we have traveled through our dear and beautiful country... Greetings Mar del Plata! Hello dear Argentine Chaco!... Greetings reddish La Rioja and golden Mendoza. Thank you, Trelew! Thank you, Córdoba, our dear capital of cuarteto music and of El Potro Rodrigo, thank you Walter, the Catamarcan prince of the cuartetian Catamarca, your music inspires us! Thank you, Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy! Greetings Entre Ríos! Reconquista and Santa Fe!

But the best thing that has happened to us, besides meeting all of you, was becoming a cooperative. We realize that in the beginning it was hard for us to wake up. Back then, all of us were sleeping...

As a cooperative we learned that work is the best thing that can happen to us. We turned work into a part of our lives, never an obligation, never unpleasant, we turned our project into a dream.

We learned to trust one another, to be better coworkers, to work toward a common goal and for something more than our own selves. We became aware of many things, like our tender hearts among so many others, flapping like a dying bat that can't escape through the window. That work could be a joy was our greatest discovery!

Cooperativism showed us The Force. This is how we've learned all that we know and now we are much more.

Now we have a new project. We're going to buy a property in Florencio Varela. We're going to build a house on a hectare of land, start an organic farm, open an agrarian school and everything we can think of…

You're all invited...

We need to return to the land and bring our work along. With a bit of work mud can become a most beautiful sculpture.

That's where we're going, Florencio Varela, here we come…

We're cutting cardboard and making thousands of books as we grow and become better friends. We will drive into the sunset, happy to be together, our work made a reality, editing new titles, with new sons, daughters and hopes, working more every day, happy together.

We're waiting for you!

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