Carmen Tafolla

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Dr. Carmen Tafolla
CT PR -2 GS 2015 Red Huipil CU (1).jpg
Born29 July 1951
San Antonio, Texas
Genrechildren's literature

Carmen Tafolla (born 29 July 1951)[1] is an internationally acclaimed[2] Chicana writer from San Antonio, Texas, and a professor emerita of bicultural bilingual studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Tafolla served as the poet laureate of San Antonio from 2012 to 2014, and was named the Poet Laureate of Texas for 2015–16.[3] Tafolla has written more than thirty books, and won multiple literary awards. She is one of the most highly anthologized Chicana authors in the United States, with her work appearing in more than 300 anthologies.[1][2][3]


Tafolla was born in San Antonio, Texas, on 29 July 1951. She graduated from Austin College with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and French in 1972, and earned a master's degree in education from Austin College the following year. She pursued further graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, earning a PhD in bilingual and foreign education in 1981.[1] Tafolla has three children, and was married to Ernesto M. Bernal[4] for 38 years until his death in 2017

Academic career[edit]

Tafolla served as the Director of the Mexican-American Studies Center at Texas Lutheran College, Seguin from 1973 to 1976, and from 1978 to 1979. She has served as Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at California State University, Fresno, as Special Assistant to the President for Cultural Diversity Programming at Northern Arizona University, has taught at numerous universities throughout the Southwest, and is currently Professor Emerita of Bicultural Bilingual Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio.


Tafolla first drew the attention of the literary world as a poet, when she read some of her poetry at the Floricanto Festival in Austin, Texas in 1975. She published her first collection of poetry, Get Your Tortillas Together, with Reyes Cardenas and Cecilio Garcia-Camarillo the following year.[5] Tafolla's poetry is heavily influenced by her ethnic background, and often focuses on Chicana characters, or on themes and images which are important to Chicano culture.[6] Critics such as Yolanda Broyles-Gonzales have noted that Tafolla's female characters often display great inner strength, exhibiting what Broyles-Gonzales refers to as "an indomitable will to endure and survive" even in the most adverse situations.[6] Tafolla’s poetry began as one of the early feminist voices in the Chicano Movement, and often focuses on themes. Characters, and images richly imbedded in a Chicanx cultural setting.  Critics....In addition, her works have touched on national and international issues with a pronounced emphasis on the affirmation and celebration of individual and cultural diversity and human value.  Her works have been translated to numerous languages and have been published in English, Spanish, German, French, and Bengali. Her themes in both poetry and prose have ranged from cultural to socio-educational issues; have deepened feminist, ecological, and multicultural perspectives; have emphasized the indigenous roots of the Americas; and have challenged sexist, racist, classist, Eurocentric and homophobic stereotypes.  Often called one of the madrinas of Chicana literature, her early poetry gained her renown as a master of code-switching and featured the introduction of numerous “voice poems” which monologues later developed into a dramatic medley in her one-woman show. Her recent work has also included topics of immigration, age, death, grieving, environmental activism, and political resistance.

Selected works[edit]


  • Get Your Tortillas Together, with Reyes Cardenas and Cecilio Garcia-Camarillo. 1976.
  • Curandera M & A Editions, 1983. Illustrated by Thelma Ortiz Muraida.
  • Curandera: 30th Anniversary Edition. Afterword by the author and a new Foreword by professor Norma E. Cantú. Wings Press, 2012.
  • Rebozos, illustrated with paintings by Carolina Gárate, Wings Press, 2012.
  • Sonnets to Human Beings, and Other Selected Works, Santa Monica, Calif.: Lalo Press, 1992. ISBN 9780961694166, OCLC 953428192
  • Sonnets and Salsa, San Antonio: Wing Press, 2001. ISBN 9780930324568, OCLC 912565567
  • This River Here: Poems of San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas: Wings Press, 2014. ISBN 9781609403997, OCLC 871228585
  • Carmen Tafolla: New and Selected Poems, TCU,2015

Children's books[edit]

  • Baby Coyote and the Old Woman / El coyotito y la viejita. Illustrated by Matt Novak. Wings Press, 2000.
  • What Can You DO with a Paleta?, Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2009. ISBN 9781582462899, OCLC 779204411
  • What Can You DO with a Rebozo?, Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2008. ISBN 9781582462707, OCLC 317296531
  • That's Not Fair: Emma Tenayuca's Struggle for Justice, Wings Press, 2008
  • The Amazing Water Color Fish, Piñata Books/Arté Publico Press 2018
  • Fiesta Babies, bilingual version: Cinco Punto Press (coming 2020)

Other works[edit]

  • The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans: A Feast of Short Fiction. Wings Press, 2008.
  • To Split a Human: Mitos, machos, y la mujer chicana. Mexican American Cultural Center of San Antonio, 1975.
  • A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Confederate, English translation by Fidel Tafolla, Arte Público Press (Houston, TX), 2009. (Edited by Carmen Tafolla and Laura Tafolla)


Tafolla has received multiple literary awards:


  1. ^ a b c "Carmen Tafolla Papers, 1967-2001".
  2. ^ a b c y Gibson, Eliza Rodriguez. "Tafolla, Carmen." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States. (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  3. ^ a b "UTSA associate professor Carmen Tafolla named Texas State Poet Laureate 2015-16".
  4. ^ a b c "Carmen Tafolla." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2011. Literature Resource Center. Web. 14 July 2015.
  5. ^ Acosta, Teresa Palomo. (2003). Las Tejanas: 300 years of history. Winegarten, Ruthe. (1st ed.). Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 280. ISBN 0292797699. OCLC 60335902.
  6. ^ a b Telgen, Diane; Kamp, Jim (1993). Notable Hispanic American Women. ISBN 9780810375789.
  7. ^ a b "About the Award". Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award. Archived from the original on 2016-12-19. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  8. ^ a b "Tomás Rivera Book Award Winners". Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award.
  9. ^ "Past Awards & Other Resources".
  10. ^ "CCBC Booklists". Archived from the original on 2018-10-28. Retrieved 2015-07-23.

External links[edit]