Widely recognized as the chief poet of the Chicano movement, Alurista (the pen name of Alberto Baltazar Urista Heredia) was born on August 8, 1947, in Mexico City. He lived in the border town of Tijuana until his teens, when he immigrated to San Diego, California. He became a leading voice in 1968 by promoting the southwestern United States as the mythic homeland of the Aztecs, known as Aztlán. Alurista made pivotal contributions to Chicano poetics: He revolutionized bilingual or Spanglish expression as a legitimate form of literature; he recovered an indigenous sensibility and mythology, mainly Nahuatl from the Aztecs, and gave them a new place in Chicano poetry; he promoted the term Chicano as a new ethnic identity for peoples of Mexican descent in the United States; and he produced highly experimental poetry and a novel in a new kind of American literary voice.
Alurista has distinguished himself as a political activist and cultural warrior, a spokesman for ethnic politics, and a poet of an original oeuvre that encompasses barrio aesthetics, indigenous themes, clever wordplay, and virtuosity in linguistic slang and calligraphic expression. His constant innovations and flair made him a key poet from the 1960s through the 1980s. He developed cultural nationalism to a higher level among Chicanos, but his legacy lies in his ability to spearhead a new poetics of Spanglish.
Timespace Huracán: Poems, 1972–75. Albuquerque, NM: Pajarito Publications, 1976.
A'nque: Collected Poems 1976–79. San Diego, CA: Maize Press, 1979.
Spik in Glyph? Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 1981.
As Our Barrio Turns … Who the Yoke B On? San Diego, CA: Calaca Press, 2000.
Keller, Gary. "Alurista, Poeta-Antropólogo, and the Recuperation of the Chicano Identity." In Return: Poems Collected and New, pp. xi-xlix. Ypsilanti, MI: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingue, l972.
Lomeli, Francisco A. "Alurista (1947–)". In Latino and Latina Writers, ed. Alan West-Durán, pp. 101-116. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004.
Ybarra-Frausto, Tomás. "Alurista's Poetics: The Oral, the Bilingual, the Precolumbian." In Modern Chicano Writers, ed. Joseph Sommers and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, pp. 117-132. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979.
Francisco A. LomelÍ