March 17, 1934- February 13, 2008
raúlrsalinas, the author of the seminal Chicano experience poem, Un Trip Through the Mind Jail, was not only an accomplished poet but a dedicated community activist who gained a political consciousness while serving approximately 13 years inside some of Americas most notorious prisons (Huntsville, Soledad, and Leavenworth among others). While in prison at Marion he was befriended by Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda (famed for an armed assault on congress on March 1, 1954 with fellow Nationalists including Lolita Lebron). Sr. Miranda was a major influence on raul’s lifework. Imprisoned during the early Chicano Movement years he was active in the prison rights struggles of that time. His book, raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen: Selected Writings by raúlrsalinas (edited by protégé Louis G. Mendoza) highlights his struggles and victories inside America’s prison system. Including winning a landmark prison rights case.
After his release from prison in 1973 he dedicated his life to Chicano and Native American causes. He was a member of the Centro de la Raza in Seattle, the American Indian Movement, a co-founder of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and various other progressive organizations dedicated to defending the rights and interests of all working class and colonized people. A true internationalist he was committed to supporting Puerto Rican independence (as well as ending the bombing on Vieques), the Cuban Revolution, The Nicaraguan Sandinistas, the Zapatistas in Chiapas and the Bolivarian Process of Presidente Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela among many other internationalist struggles.
After serving many years of forced exile in Washington state (where he helped defend Native American fishing rights), he eventually returned to his home in Austin, TX. Shortly thereafter he opened Resistencia Bookstore and Red Salmon Arts which became a cultural and political hub for East Austins Chicano community.
raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine
My Weapon Is My Pen
Selected writings by Raúl R. Salinas
Edited by Louis G. Mendoza
Raúl R. Salinas is regarded as one of today’s most important Chicano poets and human rights activists, but his passage to this place of distinction took him through four of the most brutal prisons in the country. His singular journey from individual alienation to rage to political resistance reflected the social movements occurring inside and outside of prison, making his story both personal and universal.
This groundbreaking collection of Salinas’ journalism and personal correspondence from his years of incarceration and following his release provides a unique perspective into his spiritual, intellectual, and political metamorphosis. The book also offers an insider’s view of the prison rebellion movement and its relation to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The numerous letters between Salinas and his family, friends, and potential allies illustrate his burgeoning political awareness of the cause and conditions of his and his comrades’ incarceration and their link to the larger political and historical web of social relations between dominant and subaltern groups. These collected pieces, as well as two interviews with Salinas—one conducted upon his release from prison in 1972, the second more than two decades later—reveal to readers the transformation of Salinas from a street hipster to a man seeking to be a part of something larger than himself. Louis Mendoza has painstakingly compiled a body of work that is autobiographical, politically insurgent, and representative.