(Wilson Library July 14-October 31, 2008)


The diversity of the books in this exhibit is as varied as the cultures and peoples of the American continent, both north and south. I selected three countries—Argentina, Cuba and Mexico—because my travels on behalf of the library have allowed me extended time in these places.

As the Latin American and Iberian Resources librarian, my primary responsibility is to acquire humanities and social science materials in these world areas for Davis Library. While traveling in search of specialized research materials for our collections, I would occasionally run across interesting items I could not resist buying. In Buenos Aires, for example, I found small handcrafted books of poetry being dispensed from what was once a cigarette vending machine. Similarly, at a Mexico City outdoor market I could not pass up a modern codex of an ancient folk tale illustrated with delightful woodcuts—the artist was whittling away on another project.

The more I looked at these intriguing finds, the more I began to think that they were only a small sampling of the possibly quite diverse artifacts being produced by twenty-first century Latin American popular and literary culture. Thus, to document these and other trends, I began to cast my net a bit wider.

This exhibition highlights two of these trends in publishing and book-making that are quite distinct, as well as some of the ways that they intersect. One trend preserves time-honored traditions; the other experiments with format or playfully subverts it. Many titles fall somewhere between the two. For the members of the Taller Leñateros collective, the mission is to revive the bookmaking tradition of the ancient Mayans. Taller Ditoria and Taller Martín Pescador honor and extend Mexico's longstanding printing tradition, dating to 1539, by hand-printing contemporary poetry and short stories. Now esteemed for their distinctly original character, the titles produced by collectives like Eloisa Cartonera and by the artists at Ediciones Vigía originally resulted from a need to publish outside the parameters of the industrialized, mass-produced book.

Teresa Chapa
Librarian for Latin America and Iberia