How Cardboard (Yes) is Revolutionizing the Latin American Book Industry | Cecilia Nowell

The cardboard books movement began in 2003 following what many call Argentina’s Great Depression, El Corralito. Between 1998 and 2002, the country’s economy plunged and artists struggled to find affordable means of responding to the crisis. And so, writer Washington Cucurto and artist Javier Barilaro founded the first cardboard publishing press: Eloísa Cartonera. Olga Sotomayor Sánchez, founder of Olga Cartonera, a cardboard press in Santiago, recalls the economic crisis and how Cucurto and Barilaro worked to start a new movement of affordable and accessible bookmaking*:

“Cardboard publishing presses were born in Argentina in 2003 during the Corralito crisis. At that time, a painter and a poet began to buy cardboard from cardboard trash gatherers, but at a higher price. With this cardboard, they began to make book covers, paint them, and alter them by hand. Inside, the books were by new authors, by the artists themselves, by authors who had died and whose work was liberated from author rights, or by authors who had given the rights of a specific book to the firm.”

In launching the cardboard book movement, Cucurto and Barilaro emphasized artistry, by individually designing the cover of each book; accessibility, by keeping the books at a low price and allowing unknown authors to publish their work; and environmental awareness, by working from recycled materials.

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