SpokenWeb and Kodama Cartonera


Kodama Cartonera is a Mexican independent publishing collective using easy to learn bookbinding techniques and recycled materials (mainly cardboard) to make eco-friendly books. Its catalog comprises more than 30 different titles, mostly in Spanish but also in English, French, Portuguese, Japanese, as well as translations among these languages. While its editorial line mostly focuses on poetry and narrative, having one collection dedicated to each genre (“Fuera de serie” and “Emergencias”), they have also published theater plays and essays. The collective’s name and its logo (designed by visual artist Careli Rojo) are inspired by a character from Studio Ghibli film Mononoke Hime (Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 1997). In Japanese mythology, the kodama are forest spirits; their name can mean “echo,” “tree ghost,” “small ball,” or “little spirit.” In Mononoke Hime, the kodama would only reveal themselves when the forest is pure. When polluted by men, they die and fall from the trees like ghostly leaves. 

Kodama was founded in 2010 in the border city of Tijuana by writers Jhonnatan Curiel, Mavi Robles-Castillo, and Aurelio Meza. They learned the cardboard bookbinding technique from Yaxkin Melchy, founder of Santa Muerte Cartonera, who in turn had learned it from the proliferating cartonera publishing movement in South America. Initially sparkled by Eloisa Cartonera from Argentina, the first collective of this kind, the technique was a response to that country’s economic crisis in 2001, which made paper costs too high for independent publishers to cover them. Eloisa’s cartonera format offered a low-budget option for circulating textual materials while reusing disposed materials. Since then, hundreds of projects have replicated this concept across the Americas and beyond (reaching out to Spain, France, and even Mozambique), while special collections have been created to preserve their books at the University.

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