Celebrating more than forty years of creative writing by Chicana author Margarita Cota-Cárdenas, La Plonqui edited by Jesús Rosales and Vanessa Fonseca-Chávez includes critical essays, reflections, interviews, and previously unpublished writing by the author herself to document the lifelong craft and legacy of a pioneering writer in the field.
Nicknamed “La Plonky” by her family after a made-up childhood song, Cota-Cárdenas grew up in California, taught almost exclusively in Arizona, and produced five major works (two novels and three books of poetry) that offer an expansive literary production spanning from the 1960s to today. Her perspectives on Chicana identity, the Chicanx movement, and the sociopolitical climate of Arizona and the larger U.S.-Mexico border region represent a significant contribution to the larger body of Chicanx literature. Additionally, the volume explores her perspectives on issues of gender, sexuality, and identity related to the Chicanx experience over time.
Divided into three major parts, this collection begins with an introduction, followed by two testimonial essays written by the author herself and a longtime colleague, as well as an interview with the author. The second section contains nine essays by well-established literary critics that analyze Cota-Cárdenas’s literary output within a Chicano Movement literary context and offer new readings of Cota-Cárdenas’s fiction and poetry. The third part presents poetry and fiction from Cota-Cárdenas, including an excerpt from a work in progress. As a whole, the collection aims to affirm Margarita Cota-Cárdenas’s significant role in shaping the field of Chicana literature and emphasizes the importance of honoring a celebrated author who wrote a majority of her works in Spanish—one of the few Chicana writers to do so. Read an excerpt from the book below.
This collection is an open invitation to readers to share in the legacy of Chicana writer Margarita Cota-Cárdenas and to learn more about the impact of her work, which spans more than forty years in the state of Arizona. The authors who graciously contributed essays to this volume have been impacted in profound ways by the carefully crafted words Cota-Cárdenas has placed on paper, often with the assistance of La Malinche, her typewriter. If you ever had the chance to be at a poetry reading or a presentation given by Cota-Cárdenas, there is no doubt that those words shared aloud impacted you—as they did many of the authors in this collection. To know Cota-Cárdenas is to understand the plight of Chicanas/os within a historical and contemporary context. This collection is an act of love that honors the many paths that Cota-Cárdenas has paved to inspire Chicanas/os to find their voice, be fearless in calling out systemic and oppressive structures, and hold ourselves and those around us accountable for the creation of a more just world. Always knowing that la lucha sigue.
Margarita Cota-Cárdenas was born on November 10, 1941, in Heber, California, a small town located approximately five miles northwest of the border city of Calexico. Cota-Cárdenas’s father, Jesús Cota, was born in Cócorit, Sonora, Mexico, and her mother, Margarita Cárdenas de Cota, in Tortugas, New Mexico. Early in their life they both worked as migrant workers throughout the U.S. Southwest, but, tired of the constant movement this type of job required, Cota-Cárdenas’s parents soon decided to settle down in central California, earning their living as labor contractors. This occupational change provided Cota-Cárdenas with a stable living environment that allowed her to benefit from an uninterrupted educational experience, an opportunity uncommon in those days for many migrant families.
Cota-Cárdenas graduated from Orestimba High School in Newman, California, and later from Modesto Junior College. In 1966, she received her BA from California State College, Stanislaus (now California State University, Stanislaus), with a major in Spanish and a minor in English. She promptly continued her graduate studies, earning an MA in 1968 from the University of California, Davis. The PhD took longer to complete, but Cota-Cárdenas eventually received her degree in 1980 from the University of Arizona, specializing in the narrative of Carlos Fuentes. The following year Cota Cárdenas began her professional career teaching Spanish, Latin American, and Chicana/o literature and culture at Arizona State University, in Tempe, until her retirement in 2002.
Cota-Cárdenas is the author of three books of poetry and two novels. In 1976, she published Noches despertando inConciencias, her first book of poetry. This collection was followed by Puppet: A Chicano Novella (1985); Marchitas de mayo (Sones pa’l pueblo) (poetry, 1989); Sanctuaries of the Heart / Santuarios del corazón (novel, 2005); and Poemática inspiración y fiebre: Poesía mechicana y relato (poetry, 2016). Here we wish to offer a brief synopsis and analysis of Cota-Cárdenas’s body of work, representing forty years of literary production.
Laura Elena Belmonte
José R. Flores
Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs
Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez
Kirsten F. Nigro
Margarita E. Pignataro
Tey Diana Rebolledo