Thoughts on Argentina's Conjunctures :: Recuperating Work, Recovering Life (2005-2007)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Where I'll be interning next month: The Chilavert publishing factory

Here's a great article from ZNet that briefly introduces the history and current situation of the Chilavert Graphic Arts, a worker recovered book publishing enterprise. (Here's another good paper on Chilavert, in Spanish). I'll be spending a considerable amount of time there between Jul. 9 and Aug. 12 of this year, perhaps working the presses, copy editing books, working with off-set films, or perhaps even sweeping the floors. In addition, I'll be talking courses at theUniversity of Buenos Aires's Faculty of Philosophy and Letters with labour historian Prof. Pablo Pozzi, activist Silvia Delfino (who appears briefly in The Take), and recovered enterprises researchers and anthropologists Andres Ruggeri and Carlos Martinez. This educational university internship is being organized and sponsored by the UBA, the argentina autonomist project, and the Institute for Social Ecology.

Chilavert is one of the many successful worker recovered workspaces in Argentina operating as a cooperative with no owner, boss or management. Instead, it relies solely on a direct democratic form of administration conducted within direct assemblies--one worker one vote--and on sheer worker motivation! And, yes, "specialist" managerial decisions; cost-benefit analyses; purchase orders; distribution, sales, and marketing functions; machine repairs and operations; accounts payables and receivables; and building maintenance all get done and get done well. In addition, the factory also supports cultural events on the second floor, often hosting dances, movie screenings, poetry readings, community-based education classes, and other social events open to the entire Chilavert neighbourhood.

Here's a map with the approximate location of the Chilavert book publishing house. The Chilvert factory is on Chilavert St. towards the middle of the map. It's located in the old Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Nueva Pompeya. Here's another map with a broader view of Buenos Aires showing it's various neighbourhoods. On this map, Nueva Pompeya is located in the southwest corner of "la Capital Federal" (the conglomerate of neighbourhoods that make up Buenos Aires proper and the location of Argentina's federal government and courts). My father, Eduardo, just told me that his mother's family grew up in Nueva Pompeya and the bordering neighbourhood of Barracas. From my recollection of these neighbourhoods from my last trip to Baires in Dec. 2000 (exactly one year before the infamous Dec. 19-20, 2001) when I tagged along with my cousin Sergio on his magazine buying run for his Quilmes kiosk along the old streets of Nueva Pompeya, these are grand old working class neighbourhoods with stately but decaying homes and leafy wide streets. There is a whiff of old grandeur yet with many years of socio-economic decay to this part of Baires. Kind of like what Toronto's Cabbagetown feels like, without the gentrification.

OK, and just for kicks, here's a really cool satellite picture of "la Capital Federal".