Long-time activist and poet Raul Salinas has died at the age of 73 in Austin, Texas.
Salinas was considered among the greats of his generation including Miguel Pinero, Oscar Acosta, John Trudell, and Hose Montoya. He was a life-long human rights and social justice activist. He worked with the American Indian Movement, the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and held writing clinics for at-risk youth in juvenile detention facilities nationwide.
Salinas spent approximately 12 years in prison, from 1959 to 1971 on drug related charges. In the late 1960s, he became renown for his prison poetry and for his work inside prisons engaging fellow convicts in politics and literature.
At the time of his death, Salinas was an adjunct professor at St. Edwards University, Austin, Texas. In 2002, he received the Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award, and in March of 2003, he was honored with the Martin Luther, Jr., César Chavez, Rosa Parks Visiting Professorship Award given by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
His collections of poetry include Viaje/Trip” (chapbook), “East of the Freeway,” “Un Trip Through The Mind Jail,” “Indio Trails: A Xicano Odyssey through Indian Country” (Wings Press) as well as two spoken word CDs “Los Many Mundos of raúlrsalinas: Un Poetic Jazz Viaje con Friends” (Calaca Press/Red Salmon Press) and “Beyond the BEATen Path” (Red Salmon Press). A collection of his essays was recently published by University of Texas Press “raúlsalinas and The Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen”.
Salinas was born in Texas on March 17th, 1934, and was one of the few remaining poetic voices from a circle of writers that included Jose Antonio Burciaga, Ricardo Sanchez, Piñero and Pedro Pietri. In 1981, he opened La Resistencia Bookstore which he ran as a bookstore-cum-community centre until his death yesterday morning.
During his lifetime, Salinas traveled extensively sharing indigenous philosophies and revolutionary-humanist ideologies.
His personal papers were acquired by Stanford University in 1994.
For an excellent discussion of Salinas’ poetry and lifelong work in prisons, check out Louis Mendoza’s “The re-education of a Xicanindio: Raul Salinas and the poetics of Pinto transformation” published in 2003.