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Drexel Libraries Exhibit Explores the Latin American "Cartonera" Movement


Cartoneras created by Drexel students in 2022

Student-made "Cartoneras" | photo courtesy of Celeste Dolores Mann 


March 15, 2024

"Drexel Cartonera: Memorias al cartón," an exhibit featuring handmade books created by students in Performing Spanish: Language Proficiency through the Arts (Spanish 410), returns to Drexel University Libraries in the winter 2024 term. The exhibit first came to the Drexel Libraries in 2022.

The books in this exhibit are original creations written in Spanish and inspired by the Cartoneras street publishing movement in Latin America. “Cartoneras” (or “Catadoras” in Portuguese) were started in Argentina in the early 21st century and quickly spread to Brazil, Chile, México, Spain and other Latin American countries. “Eloísa Cartonera” and “Dulcinea Catadora” street publishing cooperatives were pioneers in this endeavor, and others followed. People who made their lives by picking through garbage and recyclables in Argentina and Brazil, some of them homeless, began making books from leftover cardboard, uniquely painting their covers.  

The “cartoneras” and “catadoras” appeal to Drexel students because of their creativity and ingenuity, and the grass roots initiative to recycle and make books more accessible and affordable. Writing and art flourish since authors and artists have another option other than mainstream publishers and galleries. Acknowledgement of one’s artwork or book by such traditional venues are often illusory for so many around the world.  

Some students in Spanish 410 began the course with experience in creative writing or artmaking, but many did not. For most, this is their first time creating a story in Spanish. The themes in the books are all unique and developed in the course this winter. Each cover was designed and executed by the author from recycled cardboard.

The course's instructor, Assistant Teaching Professor of Global Studies and Modern Languages Celeste Dolores Mann, spoke to the Philadelphia Inquirer about the exhibit. Read the article here.

The exhibit is free and open to all members of the Drexel community and the public. It will be on display in the lobby of the W. W. Hagerty Library from March 12–June 14, 2024.