The newest novel by a self-described daughter of the borderlands, Norma Elia Cantú, isn’t a memoir or autobiography, even though it draws on her own personal experiences.
“Cabañuelas” documents Cantú’s young adult life when she sets off to Spain in 1980 to study the country’s culture — specifically, its fiestas. Cantú reflects on Spanish traditions and compares it to South Texas communities that were conquered by Europeans centuries ago.
The character Azucena “Nena” Cantú is first introduced in Cantú’s 1995 novel “Canícula,” a self-described autobioethnography. Nena serves as a reflection of Cantú’s personal memories growing up Laredo, Texas in the 1950s and 1960s, and “Cabañuelas” is the long awaited follow-up novel that chronicles Nena’s young adult life as a Fulbright Scholar in Spain.
Nena travels the country for her research and immerses herself in the country's history, food and music. She even falls in love with a proud Spaniard who works in publishing. Above all, her research and experiences teach her about who she is, where she comes from and what is important to her.
Cantú, Murchison Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Trinity University, says it took many years for “Cabañuelas” to see the light of day. The book was published 2019 by the University of New Mexico Press.
“Cabañuelas” was not the only work Cantú published this year — “Meditación Fronteriza: Poems of Love, Life, and Labor” is a collection of poetry that reflects on love, life on the border and even labor workers. We’ll take a deeper look at Cantú’s poetry on part two of this conversation on Dec. 13, 2019.