Nuyorican poet Tato Laviera was born in Puerto Rico, the son of a philosopher and a writer. He moved to New York City in 1960, and was educated at Cornell University and Brooklyn College. Shifting between English and Spanish in his poetry, Laviera addresses themes of immigration, history, and transcultural identity. In a 2010 New York Times profile on the poet, whose life was affected in his last years by diabetes and blindness, writer David Gonzalez observed, “His writings, which pulse to the flowing rhythms of Spanish and English, deal with the tug of allegiances to culture and home, as well as race and language.” In a 2012 interview with Odilia Rivera-Santos, Laviera discussed the role linguistic innovation plays in his work, stating, “Puerto Rico in particular intertwines Caribbean Black Spanish. We dare to claim it. It is a source of pride and we are not linguistically crippled. My claim to fame is I can experiment, and sound intelligent with my linguistic experiments.”
Laviera was the author of several collections of poetry, including La Carreta Made a U-Turn (1979), AmeRícan (1985), Mainstream Ethics (Etica corriente) (1988), and Mixturao and Other Poems (2008). He also wrote more than a dozen plays, including King of Cans, which premiered in 2012 at New York’s Red Carpet Theater. Laviera lived in New York until his death in 2013.