El Amor es Más

El amor es mucho más que una novela de 500 páginas by Washington Cucurto

Introduced by Emma Balch

Back in August 2004 we made our first visit to Buenos Aires. We had spent the previous weeks volunteering in a villa, a slum town, in Lima, Peru. Arriving in Buenos Aires – even in middle of the southern hemisphere winter – the ‘good airs’ above were a welcome relief.

On the ground though, we could see the cartoneros. Buenos Aires likes to set itself apart from the rest of South America – more advanced, cosmopolitan, clean …  but the cartoneros – literally ‘cardboard pickers’ are there on the streets, every night, working with waste to make ends meets – and reminding the sophisticates, tourists, middle classes, that we don’t all have it good.

Most of the cartoneras are in their twenties and thirties – our age – working the streets of the city at night, loading their carts with cardboard left out on the pavement. They stack the cart high and tight. Sometimes their young children or teenage family members joint them in picking and packing, pulling the cart. In the early hours of the morning ‘the white train’ takes them back to the outskirts of the city where the card can be sorted and sold to recycling companies.

Intrigued by this seemingly underground workforce, Oliver and I remember reading with interest an article in the Financial Times by Richard Lapper (then FT Latin America Editor). He introduced a then-new grass-roots publishing.

The book featured in this post is a novella by one of the three founders of Eloisa Cartonera. Their publishing list is varied – from well-known South American novelists to cult Argentine writers and emerging poets who the publishers want to support. It’s an eclectic mix,  but they have attracted attention around the world and the books are sold all around the city, in the best bookshops and in street fairs.

It is a simle concept: Eloisa Cartonera buys the cardboard for the book covers from the cartoneros. Then they cut, paint, mount, glue to create the cover. The text of the book is printed on an old German Lutilit 1250 press.

The vision of Eloisa Cartonera is to democratise publishing by helping aspiring writers find a market. “We are socially excluded and this is a good way to get involved,” says Javier Barilaro, an artist and of the founders. “Anyone can do this. Anyone who has written anything can get the book printed themselves.”

Eleven years since our first visit to Buenos Aires we plan to visit Eloisa Cartonera at their HQ in La Boca. In January look out for a post on their lastest publication!

stack-of-paper-png-stack_of_books-2555px (1)

Read the full article here (do read it – it’s a great piece).   http://on.ft.com/1ROFEpP

[Click here to read an article about los cartoneros by Kristie Robinson, founder of an the Argentine Independent, an English language newspaper in Buenos Aires. #zerowaste]

Santiago Vega (born in 1973 in Quilmes, Provincia de Buenos Aires), better known as Washington Cucurto, is an Argentinian writer of fiction, prose and poetry. In 2002 he founded Eloísa Cartonera.


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