Jack Agüeros was born in 1934 in East Harlem, New York City, the son of Joaquin Agüeros and Carmen Diaz Agüeros. Joaquin Agüeros moved to New York City in the mid-1920s from Puerto Rico, where he was a policeman; Carmen Diaz arrived in New York from Puerto Rico in 1931. Life for Puerto Ricans in New York during the depression of the 1930s was hard; work was not easy to find, and Agüeros grew up in relative poverty in an immigrant area.
Agüeros’ early ambition, instilled in him by his parents, was to become a doctor. He was also an avid reader, and it was his literary interests that eventually dictated his career choice. After receiving his B. A. from Brooklyn College in New York and an Master of Arts in Urban Studies from Occidental College in Los Angeles, Agüeros soon began to distinguish himself as an award-winning writer in many different fields. As a poet, he published Correspondence Between the Stonehaulers (1991) and Sonnets from the Puerto Rican (1996); he had oneact plays produced off Broadway; and he wrote for television, including ‘‘Sesame Street’’ and WNBCTV. He also published his collection of short stories, Dominoes and Other Stories from the Puerto Rican (1993), and compiled and translated Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos (1997), a bilingual edition of the writings of Puerto Rico’s greatest poet. Agüeros has published essays as a critic, especially of Spanish-language theatre, and he has reviewed plays for the Village Voice and the SoHo News.
As a community activist, Agüeros has participated in many projects, including Mobilization for Youth, an anti-delinquency project in New York City’s Lower East Side. He was also involved in the Henry Street Settlement and the Community Development Agency. He is executive vice president of the Institute for Multicultural Communications Cooperation and Development, Inc. (IFMCCADI), and for ten years he was director of El Museo del Barrio in New York City, the only Puerto Rican museum in the continental United States.