Margarita Cota-Cárdenas was born and raised in the Imperial Valley of California, the daughter of former migrant workers from Mexico and New Mexico. She is the author of two collections of poetry in Spanish: Noches despertando en Conciencias (1976) and Marchitas de Mayo (1989). Her most famous work is the novella Puppet: A Chicano Novella (1985, 2000). First published in Spanish, the work has since been reissued in a bilingual edition. Considered a groundbreaking book, Puppet blends fact and fiction as it explores issues of social justice, political activism, and race, gender, and ethnicity during the Chicano movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Cota-Cárdenas’s second work of fiction is Sanctuaries of the Heart/Santuarios del corazón (2005), in which the main character from Puppet, Petra Leyva, returns.
Cota-Cárdenas is professor emerita of Spanish at Arizona State University.