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“Drexel Cartonera: Memorias al Cartón” Now on display in W. W. Hagerty Library

March 15, 2022

The Drexel University Libraries’ latest exhibit features the artwork and writing of students in Professor Celeste Mann’s Spanish 410 course, Performing Spanish: Language Proficiency through the Arts. As part of the course, students were challenged to create original books based on the practice of cartoneras (cardboard publishing)—an alternative publishing and art movement committed to community engagement, social activism, economic justice, and literacy.

The students’ own cardboard books make up the exhibit Drexel Cartonera: Memorias al Cartón, on display in the W. W. Hagerty Library now through June 2022. 

The cartoneras publishing movement began in Argentina following the 2001 economic crisis. Cartoneras are made from salvaged cardboard and have hand-painted covers and include short prose or poetry. Publishing cooperatives like Dulcinéia Catadora and Eloísa Cartonera pioneered the movement, which promotes the “democratization of the book and access to literature for everyone, everywhere.” The phenomenon has since spread throughout Latin America, as well as Europe and Africa.Handmade cardboard books

“Cartoneras appeal to Drexel students because of their creativity and ingenuity, and the grass roots initiative to recycle and make books more accessible and affordable,” said Professor Mann, who created the assignment for her winter 2022 course. “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 the course had previous creative writing or art experience, but for many, this was their first time writing a short story in any language. Each book is unique, and the stories range from personal memories to works of fiction to children’s stories.

“Cartoneras are relatively unknown in the US, and even in parts of Latin America. We are honored to facilitate Professor Mann’s innovative educational approach to raise Drexel’s awareness of this publishing movement through the lens of our creative, experiential-learners,” said Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD, Dean of Libraries. “This student-created exhibit illustrates two of the Libraries’ core contributions: to strengthen Drexel’s collective intellect by inspiring both curiosity of something unknown and the quest for learning from and about other backgrounds, as well as to reinforce Drexel’s culture of inclusivity by celebrating diverse cultures and perspectives. We are thrilled to feature this exhibit during the spring term and are eager for more Dragons to experience the delight of exposure to and engagement with this unique form of artistic expression.”

Drexel Cartonera: Memorias al Cartón will be on display in the W. W. Hagerty Library atrium March 14 through June 17, 2022. The exhibit is free and open to all members of the Drexel community and the public. Please visit the University's visitor policy page before coming to campus.