Jimmy Santiago Baca

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Jimmy Santiago Baca (born January 2, 1952) is a Chicano-American poet and writer.


  • I was institutionalized from age five to thirty years, first in an orphanage and then in prison. I kept running away and escaping and escaping and escaping . . . I had tried to escape so many times. When I got to prison I refused to work; I wanted to learn—I wanted an education. I was ready to give my life for an education…
  • The white kids are being conditioned to feel superior—so you can’t attack the whites, you have to attack the system. But we have to attack with loving ourselves first. If we don’t love more, we ain’t revolutionizing nothin’. People who love themselves won’t tolerate deception; they won’t tolerate oppression…
  • People of color and poor people, we have a self-hatred that is somehow like a virus, and the second you come out of your mother’s womb, the virus comes to you—that if you’re poor, and you’re a person of color, you have self-hatred. But each of us who gets educated—we educate those around us. Education for itself is worthless, but making education yours is priceless. I tell all of my students to make it theirs…
  • Not knowing how to read and write is only the top of that morbid state of being. Not knowing how to read and write leads to not knowing where windows come from, how cars are made, how people pay for cars. Not knowing how to read and write is only the top of the problem, because behind that wall you don't know anything and how anything operates in society, and that's the nightmare.

Quotes about Baca[edit]

  • Jimmy Santiago Baca writes of poetry as a birth into the self out of a disarticulated, violently unworded condition, the Chicano taught to despise his own speech, the male prisoner in a world...run by men's rules and maintained by men's anger and brutish will to survive, forced to bury his feminine heart save in the act of opening a letter or in writing poems. Every poem is an infant labored into birth and I am drenched with sweating effort. Tired from the pain and hurt of being a man, in the poem I transform myself into woman. Released from the anguish of speechlessness (There was nothing so humiliating as being unable to express myself, and my inarticulateness increased my sense of jeopardy, of being endangered),' Baca transforms himself into a woman who has transcended the pain and hurt of being female, who has actually given birth to words, not to a living, crying, shitting child. But how balance the hard labor of bearing a poem against the early depletion of uneducated women bearing children year after year? Or against the effort for speech by a woman who culture has determined that women shall be silent?

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