Good things come in small packages

A colourful display of books at Taller Leñateros (from Wikimedia Commons)

This post is about two small, beautiful publications that come packed with great significance. These are two books by the publishing collective Taller Leñateros (translated as ‘Firewood Collectors/Peddlers Worskhop’) in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Taller Leñateros publishes the first books produced, written, illustrated, printed and bound entirely by Mayan people in 400 years1, and was founded in 1975 by Mexican poet Ambar Past.

Chiapas, as the perifery of the perifery, is known to the world because of the EZLN (the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, or Zapatista Army of National Liberation) who democratically control a substantial part of this Southern Mexican territory in the name of local indigenous rights. The geographical position of Taller Leñateros in this rural area is of high importance in this context2, considering as well that most of the publishing industry of the country is located in Mexico City, where literary production is mandated by big national publishers, some of them linked to mainstream publishing multinationals. 

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Expanding rhizomes: cartoneras unlocking voices this side of the Atlantic

In their article Latin American politics underground: Networks, rhizomes and resistance in cartonera publishing1, Lucy Bell and Patrick O’Hare (two of the researchers leading the two-year AHRC funded cartonera project ) use Deleuze’s, Guattari’s and (one of the Argentinian cartonera precursors) Javier Barilaro’s theories on rhizomes to explain the course by which, since their beginning in the early 2000s, cartonera publishing networks developed and multiplied (to around 250 currently) across Latin America, forming underground horizontal alliances in similarly fertile social and cultural soils. 

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Not one ‘shhhh’: children making cardboard books at the University Library

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Children proudly showing their work

On Thursday 1st of August the University Library opened its doors to an enthusiastic bunch of children aged 7-13 invited to create their own books at the Cardboard publishing in the courtyard event, part of the Summer at the Museums series.

The morning and afternoon workshops in the North Courtyard were led by Dr Lucy Bell and Dr Patrick O’Hare, researchers from the Cartonera Publishing project  (cartón meaning cardboard in Spanish), of which Cambridge University Library, the British Library and Senate House Library are partners. Continue reading

Cartoneros

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Colourful Eloisa Cartonera’s books at a stall at the “Noche de las Librerías”, 2011. (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

When in 2001 Argentina went bankrupt, thousands of families lost everything, or almost everything. Many had to find new ways of survival and many joined the cartoneros force, the street cardboard pickers who, after long hours of walk around the city with their carts, would sell what they had collected to be recycled. In these times of crisis, the country also saw the rise of diverse forms of cooperativism and solidarity within communities (such as barter groups, communitarian urban allotments or the collective running of closed factories).

In this context, two writers and an artist in Buenos Aires (Washington Cucurto, Fernanda Laguna and Javier Barilaro), who would normally self-produce and self-publish their work but couldn’t do so anymore because of the highly increased price of paper, created in 2003 an independent non-lucrative cooperative publishing house: Eloisa Cartonera. Continue reading