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. While there, he received forced shock treatments and spent four years in isolation. More recently he has lived on a small farm outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, and travelled doing poetry readings. His other work includes the screenplay for Bound by Honor and the book Working in the Dark: Reflections of a Poet of the Barrio (1992). His book-length poem sequence, Martin & Meditations on the South Valley (1989), is a southwestern narrative journey in which the main character is restored by contacts with land and heritage.