Pre-Texts, formerly known as the Paper Picker Press, was inspired by two resourceful publishing projects in Latin America, as well as other popular practices. The first was “Eloisa Cartonera,” a publishing house / store-front that was established in Buenos Aires after the 2001 economic crash, when poor people filled the streets to collect cardboard and sell it to recycling plants. A poet and a painter responded to the desire for unaffordable items by creating a new use for the old cardboard: Books. “Eloisa Cartonera” buys cardboard from cartoneros and incorporates the garbage pickers into the production of individually crafted books made of recycled material. The recycled covers announce classics and also new literature donated by distinguished Latin American writers.
In 2004, Peru’s “Sarita Cartonera” replicated the model, but it had to add an educational program to tackle the problem of low levels of readership among Peruvian youth and school children. The founding educators understood that playing with books as raw material for interpretations would engage reluctant readers. Today that irreverent inspiration enhances teaching at Harvard University and with many other partners.