Victor Hernández Cruz Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

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...

(The entire section is 430 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Victor Hernández Cruz (krewz) moved with his family to Lower East Side Manhattan from a small town in Puerto Rico when he was five years old. His parents soon divorced. In an autobiographical essay, “The Bolero of the Red Translation,” in Red Beans, he begins, “Migration is the story of my body, it is the condition of this age.” He describes his move from a tropical world “in a bowl surrounded by green mountains wherein a million mysteries resided” to a world of “awesome gray velocity” where people spoke a “language which sounded like bla-bla-bla.” He identifies himself with Spanish and English, and with Native (Taino Indian) and African (notably Yoruba) cultures. “Poetry falls everywhere,” Cruz writes. “It is the most available art form.” He was writing poems by the time he was fourteen, but he dropped out of high school in 1967, just six months before graduation. By then, he had already produced his first collection, a mimeographed book entitled Papo Got His Gun! and Other Poems, which he distributed to local bookstores and sold for seventy-five cents a copy. It was discovered by an editor of the Evergreen Review, who reprinted several of the poems. The book, which Cruz elsewhere describes as “the poetry of youthful fire,” concerns teenagers coming to grips with the reality of life and death in the barrio of Spanish Harlem.

After leaving high school, Cruz became involved with the East Harlem Gut Theater, a collective effort of Puerto Rican artists and actors, and he helped edit the literary magazine Umbra between 1967 and 1969. By 1968, his poems had appeared in such noted magazines as Ramparts and in Black Fire, an anthology edited by African American poet LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka). In 1968, in the midst of the protests against the war in Vietnam, he moved to Berkeley, where he met such influential writers as Octavio Paz, Ishmael Reed, Allen Ginsberg, and Ernesto Cardenal. He was not yet twenty when Random House published Snaps, which...

(The entire section is 837 words.)


(Literature of Developing Nations for Students)

Victor Hernández Cruz Published by Gale Cengage

Born in the barrio El Guanabano in the town of Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, in 1949 to Severo and Rosa Cruz, Victor Hernández Cruz and his...

(The entire section is 404 words.)