Official Blog of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Cartonera Crossings: From Cardboard Books To Cultural Identity

This article was edited by Bette Benson (LACIS Social Media/Outreach Intern, BA, LACIS, Pol Sci, & Intl Stud ’15) using THIS News posting by UW and THIS article from Madison Metropolitan School District and information from the Wisconsin Digital Collection page.

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Eighth grade students in Spanish Language Arts class at Sherman and Cherokee middle schools had the opportunity to explore the UW campus on a recent visit to learn about the Argentine cartonera movement.

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Nichole Von Haden and Kristen Scott, Bilingual Resource Teachers at Sherman Middle School and Cherokee Middle School, respectively, have been teaching their students about the important cartonera movement that originated in 2003 in “La Boca,” a unique neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, known for it’s colorful architecture and tango clubs. Named after Eloisa Cartonera, a publishing house that strives to make books accessible for everyone by using cardboard and other recycled materials to produce books, this social justice movement has since expanded to several Latin American countries and even to Africa.

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To enhance the learning experience, Nichole and Kristen took their students to a presentation at the UW-Madison and to view the impressive collection of cartonera books in their Special Collections section of the Memorial Library. The Cartonera Collection at Memorial Library was started in the spring of 2006 by Ibero-American Studies Bibliographer Paloma Celis Carbajal after meeting in person with members of Eloísa Cartonera during an acquisitions trip to Buenos Aires. Professor Alda Blanco graciously volunteered to bring from Buenos Aires the first 100 books for this collection. UW-Madison is making huge strides to preserve these books and has a notable collection.

cartonera bookIn addition to learning a lot about the movement and the Argentine culture, the students enjoyed a walking tour of the UW campus. Nichole and Kristen emphasized on the trip: “We are really trying to get the kids thinking about attending university and about what they’ll need to do to achieve that.” Encouraging the kids to start thinking about college, they sat in an actual college classroom and learned about exciting opportunities and admission requirements at the UW.

The tour also emphasized how advantageous it is to be bilingual in today’s world. By studying Spanish Language Arts in middle school, these students are acquiring and building their language skills at an early age which opens them up to a wealth of opportunities. Being proficient in both English and Spanish will open more doors to them in college and career both in the United States and abroad – as well as in international schools, corporations or organizations.

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LACIS is proud to support opportunities that connect local Madisonian youth with cultural projects from our region. Make sure to check out the Cartonera Crossing collection at Memorial Library, where it is on display at the circulation desk until April 30th!

“Cartonera Crossings” was made possible thanks to a 2014-2015 HEX Grant awarded by the Center for the Humanities at UW-Madison.

LACIS is pleased to provide support for K-12 outreach activities related to this exhibit through a Title VI grant provided by the US Department of Education.