The Universe of Cartonero Books

September 17 to November 8, 2019

Casa da Esquina (Coimbra)


The story of the cartonera publishers begins with a touch of a tragic fable. Once upon a time there was a country below the famous Equator line plunged into yet another of its usual cyclical crises. This is the context in which the world's first cartonera publisher emerges; today, we estimate over 150 on the world map.

Created by small groups of people involved in literary and cultural making, in some cases also with groups with political and social concerns, cartonera publishers often operate as intervention proposals to launch voices and languages ​​of subjects ever silenced, to make writing and reading practices of greater incidence in everyday life, especially among sectors that have historically been on the fringes of literate culture.

One can say that the originality of the cartonero book resides in the base used in the making of book covers and the plastics involved, because when using the cardboard (cartón in Spanish) the destiny of a typical consumer society material is reversed, garbage dumps or recycling companies, for its conversion through creativity in part of an object that seeks to insert itself under another logic in the field of symbolic goods. In this sense, opting for cardboard is linked to the gesture of ecological awareness in the current struggle for the planet's sustainability, a gesture that is in itself a political position. In addition, the result of plastic interventions on the covers, using different techniques, gives the cartonero book a certain “aura”, as each copy is unique for its singularity.

The exhibition presented here is only a small sample of the heterogeneous universe of Cartonero books. Visitors will be able to see what publishers from various Latin American, European and African countries publish and the unique way they make their books. The spirit that guides it is to enable the Portuguese public to know the editorial proposal that was born of precariousness and that today is spreading to different hinterlands of the world.

[Excerpts from a text by Gaudencio Gaudério, North Wind Cartonero]

Curators: Vento Norte Cartonero, Casa da Esquina, Lúcia Fernandes, Teresa Cunha, Rita Campos