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Norma Elia Cantú author's photo

A few months after her birth in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in 1947, Norma Elia Cantú's family moved to Laredo, Texas, where she lived for the next 25 years. After attending public schools in Laredo, she received degrees from Laredo Junior College, and Texas A&I University at Laredo (BS in Education, majoring in English and Political Science) while working at a local utilities company. She then attended Texas A&I, Kingsville and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where she received MA and PhD degrees, respectively. For over 30 years she taught in South Texas, first at her alma mater, now Texas A&M International University, and at the University of Texas, San Antonio, with brief stints in Washington, DC (working at the National Endowment for the Arts), and in Santa Barbara (at the University of California, Santa Barbara).

Cantú has received two Fulbright-Hays fellowships to do research in Spain; her novel, CanĂ­cula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera, received the Aztlán Prize in 1996. She has published poetry, fiction and scholarly essays. Other projects include co-edited and edited work such as, Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios, Dancing across Borders: Danzas y Bailes Mexicanos, Paths to Discovery: Autobiographies of Chicanas with Careers in Mathematics, Science and Engineering, Moctezuma's Table: Rolando Briseño's Chicano and Mexicano Tablescapes, Chicana Traditions: Continuity and Change, and Ofrenda: Liliana Wilson's Art of Dissidence and Dreams.

As a community activist in Laredo, Cantú was instrumental in the founding of the Literacy Volunteers organization (LVA); a feminist women's group, Las Mujeres; and a local chapter of Amnesty International; as well as organizing annual celebrations commemorating the anniversary of César Chávez's birthday. She sees her creative writing and academic work as forming a part of her activist agenda where academic study can inform and provide an impetus for social change. Active in a number of professional organizations, she also works with Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social and was named the 2008 Scholar of the Year by the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies. She founded the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa and is a founding member of the CantoMundo Poetry Workshop.

Cantú is currently working on a number of book projects, including a collection of poetry, "Border Meditation/Meditación fronteriza: Poems of Love, Life and Work," two novels (tentatively titled, "Champú: or hair matters" and "Cabañuelas: A Love Story"), a long-range ethnographic study of the Matachines de la Santa Cruz, and a number of other creative and academic projects.

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