Victor Hernández Cruz was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, a small town about twenty miles from San Juan. The streets were unpaved, but he absorbed the native song and poetry as well as the poetic declamations of his grandfather and uncle. His family migrated to New York in 1954 and settled in the tenements of the lower East Side of Manhattan. He attended Benjamin Franklin High School and began to write verse. At the age of sixteen, he composed his first collection of poetry, Papo Got His Gun! and Other Poems. Cruz and his friends duplicated and distributed five hundred copies to local bookstores.
In 1967, the Evergreen Review helped launch Cruz’s career when the journal featured several of these poems. Thus, while still in high school, he became a published poet. In 1969, he released his second collection of poems, Snaps, and gained national attention. In the 1960’s, his neighborhood had become a center of intellectual and social ferment as part of the Civil Rights movement. Beat poetry, protest poetry, and feminist poetry mixed with political activism and music to form the social milieu. Ishmael Reed, Allen Ginsberg, and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) were major influences, and Cruz was intrigued by the developing Nuyorican (New York/Puerto Rican) poetry movement, which often claims him.
In 1969, Cruz moved to Berkeley, California, to become poet-in-residence at the University of California. In 1973, he...
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