‘La Plonqui’ tells the story of the first ASU Chicano Literature Professor

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There is a new book out on the first Chicano Literature Professor at Arizona State University. Margarita Cota-Cárdenas emerged in the 1960s, and her life is detailed in the new book “La Plonqui: The Literary Life and Work of Margarita Cota-Cárdenas.”

It was co-edited by Vanessa Fonseca-Chavez, an associate professor of English at ASU, and Jesus Rosales, an associate professor of Spanish in the School of International Letters and Cultures. We talked to Rosales about this new book.

“La Plonqui” is a childhood nickname given to Cota-Cárdenas by her family, Rosales said.

“I think the title “Plonqui,” which is a playful song and dance, captures the spirit of the book, captures who Margarita is; she is very playful, she’s very witty in her writing,” Rosales said.

Rosales said he took the photo of the typewriter on the book’s cover. It was same typewriter she used to write her first book of poetry and her first “novela,” and it inspired her to write.

“Margarita is part of the Chicano movement writers from the sixties and seventies. I believe she is a pioneer in the sense that she was one of the first writers who introduced courses also at the university level of Chicano writers. Her writing is different, as opposed to other Chicano writers, is in Spanish. She wrote most of her stuff in Spanish and in Spanglish. It was a really challenging writing for her and for the readers as well,” Rosales said.

Rosales said Cota-Cárdenas was a pioneer because the first courses she taught in Chicano literature were in Spanish. Chicanos who came from a background of Mexican and Latin-American Spanish background valued the language and culture.

Cota-Cárdenas wrote in Spanish because she wanted to reach a different audience, Rosales said. The author wrote about serious topics, including immigration. Rosales said her work challenged him because it was written in Spanish and she used a lot of slang, bilingualism in both Spanish and English.

“When you read her stuff, it becomes difficult. For me it was a challenge. Since I was trained in the Spanish program, it was important for me to try to promote Chicano literature in Spanish because of the fact that it is part of our identity that’s being lost. She influenced me in that sense, so I try to emphasize that in my classes,” Rosales said.

Jesus Rosales, associate professor of English at ASU

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