Migrants, Multiculture, Our People

A project to explore the notion of identity

“Cartoneras” is a contemporary publishing phenomenon that lies at the intersections between cultural trend and social movement, artistic intervention and community project. They are here and will be offering workshops for young Latin Americans in South London.


Soledad Montañez / Research Fellow in Community Engagement


Known in Latin America as editoriales cartoneras, they are often referred to as ‘cardboard publishers’, because one feature that unites the diverse publishing projects is the material from which they make their books: recycled cardboard.

Yet the term ‘cartonera’ encompasses far more than ‘cartón’, the Spanish word for ‘cardboard’. It is also a reference to the cartonero figure, the ‘cardboarders’ who turned to collecting rubbish in Buenos Aires for a living after becoming unemployed in the wake of the economic crisis (2001).

It was from these urban recyclers that Eloísa began to buy cardboard at five times the market price to cover their hand-made books, and it was with them that they set up a productive project that has published over 200 titles since 2003.

Some of them, like Eloísa and Dulcinéia (from São Paulo), continue to work directly with waste-pickers. Many others, though, have recycled the model, adapting it to their particular local contexts, communities and social needs. This has led to diverse collaborations between cartoneras, school groups, immigrants and refugees, indigenous communities, peace organizations, and so on.

The project is part of an action-research project on community engagement and the Latin American community in Southwark.

Led by Maria Soledad Montañez from IMLR,  the project explores creative tools and resources for an effective and sustainable approach to improve service access and engagement by the Latin American community in South London.

Working in partnership with The Latin American Youth Forum (LAYF) from IRMO, the creative workshops are aimed at young Latin Americans aged 13-19 years old and living in Southwark/Lambeth. The LAYF is a youth-led initiative for young people to become more actively involved in their community. LAYF aims to help participants to maximise their potential and move into education, training and/or employment.

The Cartonera project will explore notions of community, identity and language through a series of workshops, from creative writing to book making. Participants will produce texts (for instance, about their experience of being a Latin American in London) which will then be made into bilingual cartonera books. The project will be organised by María Soledad Montañez (Research Fellow in Community Engagement, OWRI/IMLR, University of London) and Rahul Berry (Translator-in Residence, British Library/IMLR) in partnership with IRMO.

The Cartonera workshops are a collaborative effort bringing together two different AHRC projects in England – namely the OWRI’s Cross Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community, from the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR), University of London led by Professor Catherine Davies. And Cartonera Publishing: relations, meaning and community in movement led by Lucy Bell (University of Surrey) and Alex Flynn (University of Durham), the British Library, and the third-sector organisation, the Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO), and Southwark Council.

This free and open event offers participants the chance to find out more about this Latin American publishing phenomenon, and to see some of the Library’s own collection of Cartoneras. A presentation by academic and researcher Lucy Bell will be followed by a workshop where you will be able to try your hand at making your own cardboard book.

The project will be launched at the British Library, on 17 May 2019 at 3 pm. For more information: crosslanguagedynamics and cartonerapublishing.com For Registration click here.

(Photos: Lucy Bell: cartonerapublishing.com)

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