Lorna Dee Cervantes was born in San Francisco of Chicana and Native American (Chumash) heritage. For many years she taught at University of Colorado and edited the Chicana/o journal MANGO, which was the first to publish Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Alberto Ríos, all poets included in the present collection. Her work has long evoked the dynamics of race, sex, class, and economics in Latino culture, with a special emphasis on the impact of the dominant culture on the lives of Latina women and on the forms of resistance they have devised.
Alberto Alvaro Ríos was born in the city of Nogales, Arizona, on the Mexican border. His mother was British and his father Mexican. Ríos was educated at University of Arizona and now teaches at Arizona State University. His poetry has been set to music in a cantata by James DeMars called "Toto's Say” and also adapted to both dance and popular music. As “Madre Sofía” demonstrates, there is a distinctive strain of magical realism in his work, something he is adept at sustaining in verse narratives.
Born in Chicago to working-class parents—her father was an upholsterer, her mother a factory worker—Cisneros spent her early years shuttling between the United States and her father's family home in Mexico City. After studying at the Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa, she settled in Texas in a house on the San Antonio River, though she has also been a writer in residence at the University of Michigan and the University of California at Irvine. Her published work includes not only poetry but also experimental collections of fiction and sketches.
Ana Castillo was born and grew up in Chicago of Aztec and Mexican ancestry. She was educated at Northern Illinois University and the University of Chicago, thereafter earning a Ph.D. at the University of Bremen. In both high school and college, Castillo was active in the Chicano movement and began writing political poems about ethnic experience. Known for both her novels and her poetry, she has often explored the politics of sexuality.
Born in Sante Fe, New Mexico, of Chicano and Apache Indian descent, but abandoned at age two, Jimmy Baca lived part of the time with a grandparent. By his fifth birthday, his father was dead of alcoholism, his mother had been murdered by her new husband, and Baca was in an orphanage. He escaped at age eleven and lived on the street, moving on to drugs and alcohol. Soon he was convicted on a drug charge, though he may not have been guilty. He wrote the poems in his first book, Immigrants in Our Own Land (1979), while he was in prison, where he had taught himself to read.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, of Puerto Rican parents—his father was a photographer who illustrated his first book—Espada now teaches at the University of Massachusetts, but his earlier experience is much wider. He was a night clerk in a transient hotel, a journalist in Nicaragua, a welfare rights paralegal, and later a tenant lawyer in Boston. In addition to writing his own poetry, he has edited collections of political poetry and of contemporary Latino poets. His political poetry is notable for making its points with great wit and bravado.