For the last several years the literacy of youth and adults has occupied an important place in discussions held by international organizations and in the agendas of the Latin American region’s ministries of education. 1 Underschooled adults and youths are believed to be incapable of having an opinion, understanding complex issues, and participating in social spaces. People tagged and classifi ed as illiterate, uneducated, or poorly educated are generally not recognized as active social subjects despite the fact that they participate in institutions, struggle for their rights, constitute families, or plan and develop projects for the future. For the most part, the ways they appropriate and use written language is unknown to many scholars, educators, or policy makers because the ways they use written language and other semiotic representations is unfamiliar and somewhat unconventional from a literate’s point of view, making their meaningmaking processes invisible to the everyday eye. In this paper I will argue, contrary to popular belief and offi cial discourse, that people like Marta Graciela, one of the adults I studied, interpret intricate multimodal representations and participate actively and competently in a variety of social contexts. I will present a complex outlook on literacy learning in order to understand how Marta Graciela interprets the meaning of texts, graphic images, and oral language, and how she uses them in daily life. I will also identify the different tools that mediate her acquisition of knowledge.