NALAC Mourns The Loss Of Poet/activist
Raúl R. Salinas, aka raúlrsalinas, regarded as one of the most important Chicano poets and human rights activists of our time, passed away on February 12,2008. His life journey took him through four of the most brutal prisons in the country. His singular journey from individual alienation to rage to political resistance reflected the social movements occurring inside and outside of prison, making his story both personal and universal. Photo by Valentino Mauricio
He gained international recognition as a spokesperson for a diversity of political causes, ranging from prisoner rights and national liberation struggles to gang intervention and youth arts advocacy. His belief that the Chicano civil rights struggle was intrinsically linked to all indigenous people’s struggles led him to adopt the term Xicanindio to refer to his hybrid identity. He is the author of three collections of poetry: Un Trip Thru the Mind Jail y Otras Excursions (Editorial Pocho-Che, 1980; Arte Publico Press, 1999), East of the Freeway: Reflections de mi pueblo (Red Salmon Press, 1995), and Indio Trails: A Xicano Odyssey thru Indian Country (Wings Press, 2006). He also produced spoken word CDs and pieces for academic journals and anthologies.
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Recently, UT Press published a selected collection of his prison writings, raulsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon Is My Pen (edited by Louis Mendoza, 2006). This groundbreaking collection of Salinas’ journalism and personal correspondence from his years of incarceration and following his release provides a unique perspective into his spiritual, intellectual, and political metamorphosis. The book also offers an insider’s view of the prison rebellion movement and its relation to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The numerous letters between Salinas and his family, friends, and potential allies illustrate his
burgeoning political awareness of the cause and conditions of his and his comrades’ incarceration and their link to the larger political and historical web of social relations between dominant and subaltern groups. These collected pieces, as well as two interviews with Salinas—one conducted upon his release from prison in 1972, the second more than two decades later—reveal to readers the transformation of Salinas from a street hipster to a man seeking to be a part of something larger than himself. Louis Mendoza painstakingly compiled a body of work that is autobiographical, politically insurgent, and representative. Salinas received many awards and honors in his life including the 2004 National Association for Latino
Art and Culture (NALAC) Lifetime Achievement Award.
Raúl Salinas was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1934 and raised in East Austin, where he attended Catholic primary school and public high school through the eleventh grade. In interviews he noted that he was a good student; he was clearly capable of mastering his lessons, but he was also a young rebel who often rejected strict rules and behavioral guidelines. At the time of his passing he lived in Austin, Texas, where he owned Resistencia Bookstore, a neighborhood center for aspiring writers and a gathering place for activists. el AVISO