Raymond Barrio’s social protest novel The Plum Plum Pickers is a widely anthologized work of Chicano fiction, and selections from it appear in many high school and college-level textbooks. Barrio, however, is not literally Chicano; his parents immigrated to the United States from Spain in 1920. His father, Saturnino Barrio, who was born in Seville, died after exposure to poisonous fumes in a chemical factory in New Jersey; his mother, Angelita Santos Barrio, was from Algeciras. In unpublished correspondence Barrio explained that he and his brother lived with foster families while their mother pursued her career as a Spanish dancer, giving him a very American Protestant education despite a Catholic birth and upbringing. Barrio met Yolanda Sánchez in Mazatlan, Mexico, and they married in 1957. The couple had five children.
Barrio lived in California from 1936 until his death (excluding time spent in military service in Europe from 1943 to 1946). He held academic degrees from the University of California at Berkeley (B.A., 1947) and the Art Center College of Los Angeles (B.F.A., 1952). Barrio taught a variety of courses (art, creative writing, Chicano studies and literature, and Mexican art) in eight California institutions (San Jose State University; Ventura College; the University of California, Santa Barbara; West Valley College; De Anza College; Skyline College; Foothill College; and Sonoma State University). In 1964 he was awarded the Creative Arts Institute Faculty Grant by the University of California.
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