Herrera, Juan Felipe, 1948-

Birth 1948-12-27

Biographical notes:

Chicano poet. Committed to social change and justice, Herrera's work resists traditional categorization. His most recent writings can best be described as postmodern expressionism that incorporates elements from drama, music, and the visual arts.

From the description of Juan Felipe Herrera papers, 1974-2011. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 659288312


Juan Felipe Herrera is the son of Mexican migrant workers and is an accomplished writer who has been honored with National Endowment for the Arts grants (1980, 1985), the American Book Award (1987), four California Arts Council grants, the UC Berkeley Regent's Fellowship, the Breadloaf Fellowship in Poetry and the Stanford Chicano Fellows Fellowship. His publications include thirteen collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children in the last decade with nineteen books in total His poetry and essays have appeared in both small presses (Bilingual Press and Curbstone) as well as mainstream publishing concerns (University of Arizona Press and Vintage). His works have been translated to Spanish by Mexico's most important publisher, the Fondo de Cultura Economica. Other translations include German and Serbo-Croatian. For his literary endeavors, Herrera has garnered the Ezra Jack Keats Award, the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Americas Award, the Focal Award, the Pura Belpré Honors Award, the Smithsonian Children's Book of the year, the Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice, the IRA Teacher's Choice, the LA Times Book Award Nomination, the Texas Blue Bonnet Nomination, the New York Public Library outstanding book for high school students and two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards. Born in Fowler, California, a small town southeast of Fresno, Herrera traveled with his parents on the seasonal crop circuit, eventually settling in the San Diego area at the age of eight. Upon graduation from San Diego High School in 1967, he was awarded a federal Educational Opportunity Grant and went on to UCLA, earning a B.A. in social anthropology. While at UCLA, Herrera became interested in the performance work of Luis Valdez's El Teatro Campesino, and subsequently formed his own theatre group, Teatro Tolteca. In 1970, with funding from UCLA's Mexican American Center, Herrera traveled to Mexico to study indigenous theatrical expression. The combination of "teatro and the journey through Mexico changed my [his] life forever", and Herrera returned invigorated with a new sense of identity and purpose. His first major work, Rebozos of love we have woven sudor de pueblos on our back, appeared in 1974, and in 1977 he was accepted into Stanford University's graduate program in anthropology, earning an M.A. in 1980. Herrera's restless spirit, however, continued to find more creative outlets in poetry. His Exiles of Desire appeared 1983, a thematic collection exploring the darker side of urban existence, followed in 1987 by Facegames and Akrilika in 1989. With his literary career on the rise, Herrera enrolled in the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop in 1988, attaining the status of fellow with the distinction of Excellence in 1990. Awarded an M.F.A. in creative writing that same year, he joined the Department of Chicano and Latin-American Studies at California State University-Fresno. Throughout the 1990s, Herrera continued to produce collections of poetry in addition to his teaching load of creative writing and theater production. In 1995, Calling The Doves / El Canto De Las Palomas, poetry based on Herrera's childhood experiences in the farming fields of California was released, which brought Herrera into third and fourth grade classrooms across the United States both in print and in person. The fate of indigenous people as they succumb to the pressures of modernization was the subject of his 1997 release Mayan Drifter: Chicano Poet in the Lowlands of America, the result of Herrera's continuing quest to examine identity and culture in the crosscurrents of post-colonial Mesoamerica. He has three forthcoming books and is currently producing "The Twin Tower Songs," a San Joaquin Valley performance memorial on the September 11th tragedy and writing for the PBS television series "American Family." Mr. Herrera is a board member of the Before Columbus American Book Awards Foundation and the California Council for the Humanities. Promoted to Full Professor in 1998, Herrera was elected to the Chair of the Department. Of Chicano and Latin American Studies at California State University-Fresno in 2001.

Note: This biographical sketch includes information gathered from the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Chicano Writers, Second Series, Volume 122; and from Juan Felipe Herrera's most recent curriculum vita, dated March, 2003.

From the guide to the Herrera, Juan Felipe, Papers, ca. 1970-1998, (Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.)


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Ark ID:


  • Mexican Americans
  • Mexican American art
  • American literature--Mexican American authors


  • Poets
  • Authors
  • Cartoonists
  • Poets laureate


  • Redlands, CA, US
  • California, CA, US