Skip to main content

Pedro Pietri Papers

Identifier: MSS 111

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Pedro Pietri help chronicle the extraordinarily creative, productive and, at times, anarchic life of one of the most original and innovative contemporary writers of the Puerto Rican community. In addition, they lend insight into the vast scope of Pietri’s literary interests and endeavors, his collaborative relationships with other writers and his editorial process.

A dynamic and multifaceted collection, highlights of the papers include extensive original writings, annotated drafts of already published works and original artwork. Moreover, the collection boasts a large array of handmade artifacts and an impressive assortment of posters and publications documenting artistic activity in New York over the last three decades.

The materials in this collection span the years from 1939 to 2004 with the bulk concentrating on the years 1970 to 2002. They consist of correspondence, memoranda, photographs, flyers, clippings, poetry, plays, essays, scripts, awards, posters, programs, videotapes, audiocassettes, artwork and artifacts. The folders are arranged alphabetically and the documents are arranged chronologically. The materials are in both Spanish and English.

A preliminary inventory for 8 boxes of unprocessed additions is included at the end of the finding aid. The additions contain unsorted poems and flyers; books inscribed to Pietri; photos and a scrapbook; audio recordings; and artifacts.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970-2002
  • Creation: 1939-2004


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to researchers for personal research or educational instruction only.

Conditions Governing Use

For all materials related to Pedro Juan Pietri, Margarita Deida Pietri is the sole copyright holder. The Archives has no information on the status of literary rights for any additional authors included in the collection, researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright for these items.

Biographical / Historical

Dubbed the “Sun Ra of Puerto Rican letters” and the “Poet Laureate of the Young Lords Party,” Pedro Juan Pietri embodied the emerging sensibility of a generation of Puerto Ricans with one foot planted in the rhythms and culture of Puerto Rico and the other in the multicultural/ethnic urban ethos of New York City. Bridging the gap between the two islands, Pietri and his contemporaries learned to negotiate the vicissitudes of cultural belonging, creating a hybrid sensibility that merged decidedly Puerto Rican elements with those found on the streets and barrios of New York City. A poet, playwright and performer of prolific talent, Pietri stands out as one of the premiere exemplars of a distinctly Nuyorican aesthetic and has become a seminal figure in both the history of Puerto Rican letters and that of the downtown poetry scene in New York.

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico on March 21, 1943 to Francisco and Petra Pietri, Pedro Juan Pietri came to New York City in 1945. Three years later, his maternal grandfather committed suicide owing to what Pietri has noted in several interviews as a sense of hopelessness and isolation brought on by his disappointment with the promise of New York and his break with Puerto Rico. In 1949, his father died from pneumonia, which he contracted while walking the wintry streets of New York severely underdressed, leaving Pietri’s mother alone to raise Pietri and his three siblings – Brothers José (Joe), William (Willie) and Francisco (Frank) and Sister Carmen – along with her own widowed mother and sister.

Raised in a five-story walkup on Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem and in the General Ulysses S. Grant Houses, a public housing development in the area, Pietri graduated from Haaran High School in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan in 1960. The following year he began work at Columbia University’s Butler Library. It is here where he claims his real education in poetry and literature began. Taking advantage of the ready availability of books, Pietri, who already had a penchant for poetic verse and had dabbled in the writing of doo-wop songs, immersed himself in reading the works of Langston Hughes, Federico García Lorca, William Faulkner and W.B. Yeats, among others. He started writing more poetry and made the acquaintance of such noted poets as Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Ted Joans and Gregory Corso, as well as that of one his early mentors, Roger Parris. As a youth, Pietri had already been exposed to a rich oral tradition and to creativity through the popularity of song and radio dramas in his household, and the readings of his Aunt Irene at the First Spanish Methodist Church in East Harlem. The formalization of his poetic education and acquaintanceship with some of New York’s more experimental poets only served to reinforce his early forays into the writing of poetry and encourage the development of his distinctive aesthetic. In addition, Pietri notes that his discovery of the poet Jorge Brandon in Manhattan’s Union Square in the early 1960s presented him with the embodiment of a poetic style informed by the performative aspects of the song and radio-novelas of his youth and by the experimental declarations of the Beat and Umbra poets of the era. Moreover, the fact that Brandon was Puerto Rican and radically untraditional and irreverent deeply influenced the young Pietri and contributed to the formation of his poetic persona.

Between 1960 and 1966, Pietri held a number of short term jobs, among them the position at Butler Library, at a car wash and as a clerk at Klein’s Department Store, and continued to make tentative forays into the writing and reading of poetry. In 1966, Pietri entered the armed services and was stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana and Fort Hood in Texas before being sent to Vietnam. Although he remained in Vietnam for only a short period of time, his presence during the Tet Offensive, the witnessing of the deaths of numerous comrades and possible exposure to Agent Orange left an indelible mark on Pietri and had ramifications, at times severe, on his personal life and his development as a poet. In several interviews, Pietri makes reference to the fact that he died, or refused to die, in Vietnam, alluding to the dramatic consequences and subsequent rebirth of a new persona which his time there precipitated.

Upon his return from Vietnam, Pietri was confronted with the burgeoning social movements born of growing public sentiment against the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggles of previous years and eventually, if briefly, allied himself with the Young Lords Party and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Simultaneously, Pietri was reacquainting himself with the experimental poetry community, renewing relationships with Ginsberg, Joans and Baraka, and meeting members of the Last Poets, as well as Umbra poet David Henderson, who Pietri claims found him his first paid poetry reading at Sarah Lawrence College under the auspices of fellow poet June Jordan. It is at this time, in 1969, that Pietri composed and first performed his infamous poem, “Puerto Rican Obituary.” Sardonically recounting the struggles of Puerto Rican migrants to survive and succeed in New York City, “Puerto Rican Obituary” has been noted as providing insightful and biting social commentary on the disadvantaged socio-economic position many Puerto Ricans found themselves in stateside, and the often troubled negotiations of identity and community which were its aftermath. Pietri’s poem resonated significantly with his peers and took on an added political charge when he premiered it at the First Spanish United Methodist Church at Lexington and 111th Street, which the Young Lords had recently taken over and dubbed the “People’s Church.” The poem was also subsequently published in the Young Lords Party newspaper, Palante.

In the ensuing years, Pietri performed an early version of his performance piece/poem “Rent-A-Coffin” (1969), recorded his first LP of poetry titled Aqui se habla español: Pedro Pietri en Casa Puerto Rico (1971) and published his first compilation of poems Puerto Rican Obituary (1973) – a collection of 32 poems which included the bythen seminal poem of the same title. In 1971 and 1974 respectively he received grants from the Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS) program for his poetry. He also started teaching poetry workshops in New York City public schools, universities and local prisons, including workshops at The Muse Children’s Museum (1972), The Voice of the Children Workshop (1970-1972), SUNY Buffalo (1968-1970), the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affair’s Bilingual-Bicultural Early Childhood Project (1974) and the Teachers and Writers Collaborative (1968-1970). In 1975, in conjunction with El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, Pietri, along with Jesús Papoleto Meléndez and Dr. Willie Pietri, coordinated the Puerto Rican Writers Workshop at Galería Dos in East Harlem, a poetry workshop intended to bring poets and community members together to read and discuss contemporary works by numerous writers. Two years later, in 1977, a Spanish edition of Puerto Rican Obituary, titled Obituario puertorriqueño and translated by Alfredo Matilla Rivas, was published by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. Pietri also recorded and released a second LP of poetry through Smithsonian Folkways titled Loose Joints in 1979.

Most significantly in these years, Pietri, along with fellow poet Miguel Algarín, among others, contributed to the founding of the Nuyorican Poets Café in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Originating in 1973 as a series of gatherings/poetry readings held in the living room of Algarín’s apartment, the Nuyrorican Poets Café helped to foster a fertile environment for the development of the work of an emerging generation of Puerto Rican writers, raised predominantly in New York, who found themselves having to negotiate the cultural and linguistic differences between the Puerto Rico of their forbearers and contemporary New York. Forging a distinctly “Nuyorican” aesthetic and consciousness, these writers, among them Pietri, Algarín, Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, Lucky Cienfuegos, Bimbo Rivas and Miguel Piñero, carved out both a physical and intellectual space for themselves that validated their reality as hybrid individuals. Although Pietri later distanced himself from the Café, becoming critical of what he perceived as its increasing commercialism, he nevertheless continued to collaborate with the Café throughout his career, staging plays, poetry readings and other events.

Beginning in the 1970s, Pietri also began writing a number of plays, several of which were staged by local Puerto Rican theater companies, such as the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, as well as by more mainstream institutions such as Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre. Already known for his dark humor and absurdist perspective on the human condition, Pietri’s plays further explored this territory of the odd and often laughable predicaments of human folly, ambition and yearning, continuously infusing his narratives with his knowledge and experience of politics, culture and human nature. From Lewlulu, staged by the H.B. Playwrights in 1976, to Jesus is Leaving, staged at the Nuyorican Poets Café in 1977, to The Livingroom, staged by the H.B. Playwrights in 1978 and directed by the actor José Ferrer, Pietri’s plays took traditional characters and themes (the star crossed lovers of Lewlulu, the relationship between Jesus and Mary in Jesus is Leaving and the dichotomy between sanity and metal illness in the The Livingroom) and proceeded to expose and explore their intrinsically ridiculous and sometimes desperately disturbing underbelly. Throughout the decade, Pietri wrote and staged a number of additional plays, including Seven Roosters and Three Drunken Poets (1975), To Get Drunk You Have to Drink (1976) (both in collaboration with Jesús Papoleto Meléndez and Dr. Willie Pietri) and Appearing in Person Tonight: Your Mother (1978), and also wrote numerous other plays and treatments that were never produced and/or published.

During these years, Pietri also found work writing for television and film. Initially writing story treatments for a PBS series produced by the Latino TV Broadcasting Service, Inc. titled Oye Willie, about a young Puerto Rican boy growing up in East (Spanish) Harlem. Pietri also wrote for the PBS program Realidades and penned several other story treatments for television. At the same time, he was increasingly attracted to the medium of film and collaborated on scripts with Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, Jack Billy, and with Meléndez and Dr. Willie Pietri, POPI. Pietri later authored a screenplay entitled Chico for Mayor (of Chinatown) which chronicled the efforts of a Puerto Rican man to be elected the “Mayor” of Chinatown in New York.

While Pietri’s early and close collaboration with Miguel Algarín and other founding members of the Nuyorican Poet’s Café waned in the early 1970s, his working relationships with fellow poet Jesús Papoleto Meléndez and Brother Dr. Willie Pietri became more central to furthering his artistic output. Alternately known as The Latin Insomniacs Social Club, Inc., The Latin Insomniacs M.C., Inc., The Latin Insomniacs M.C.W.C. (Motorcycle Club Without Motorcycles) and The Latin Insomniacs Motorcycle Club (Without Motorcycles) Inc., the trio of Pietri, Meléndez and Pietri staged performances, poetry readings and collaborated on the writing of film scripts, plays and mixed media performance pieces. Organizing the first South Bronx Surrealist Festival in the late 1970s, the group asserted its artistic allegiance to the American avant-garde and its syncretic relationship with Puerto Rican culture and art in their work.

As Pietri’s own work continued to expand its linguistic and conceptual parameters and as he proceeded to explore other genres such as playwriting and scriptwriting, the Latin Insomniacs functioned as a laboratory of infinite possibilities which allowed Pietri to take his work in multiple and increasingly more experimental directions. Just as the New Dramatists would give Pietri a necessary support system for the development of his playwriting skills, the Latin Insomniacs was an indispensable resource of like minded individuals who could help inform and support his work. As evidenced by some of the works mentioned above, the Latin Insomniacs was very much a collaborative group that not only wrote jointly, but also influenced and informed individually-authored works. Several of Pietri’s plays which were later produced by more established companies were written and initially staged with the Latin Insomniacs, including Jesus is Leaving, with direction by Juan Valenzuela, Lewlulu and The Livingroom. He also staged additional plays with the group, such as Appearing Tonight in Person: Your Mother at La Mama, E.T.C. in 1978, The S.F. Machine and the radio drama Dead Heroes Have No Feelings, among others. Even with the loss of Willie Pietri in 1982, the Latin Insomniacs continued to organize poetry readings and performances, and remained vibrant contributors to an alternative Puerto Rican/Nuyorican artistic and literary practice.

Throughout the 1980s, Pietri was extraordinarily productive, continuing to write and stage his plays and to invent creative ways to both popularize his poetry and communicate his artistic and critical viewpoint. As a member of the New Dramatists from 1982 to 1990, a theater organization dedicated to cultivation of new and innovative playwrights, Pietri was provided with a forum within which to push the boundaries of his own expansive thinking, as well as critical intellectual and financial support for the development of his distinctive use of language and plot structure. Among the plays written in this time were The Kid with the Big Head (1981), No More Bingo at the Wake (1981), The Masses are Asses (which was staged by the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre in 1983 and starred Raúl Julia), I Dare You to Resist Me and Eat Rocks!, a reading of which was held at the New Dramatists in 1985. He also re-staged Lewlulu, with direction by José Ferrer, in 1980 at INTAR and performed “Rent-A-Coffin” at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre as part of the Festival Latino in 1985 and at the New Rican Village in 1986. Pietri’s playwriting efforts were recognized in 1981 with a third grant from the Creative Artists Public Service program.

Starting in 1980, he also published a series of compilations of his work. Besides Uptown Train, which contained a series of similarly titled poems where he experimented with variations in textual content, he also produced an essay entitled Lost in the Museum of Natural History (1981), which was published as Perdido en el Museo de Historia Natural by Ediciones Huracán in Puerto Rico. He published his second book of poetry, Traffic Violations in 1983 and the text of his play The Masses are Assess in 1984, both with Kal Wagenheim’s Waterfront Press. In the late 1980s, with the AIDS crisis in full swing, Pietri intensified his advocacy for the use of condoms. Pietri noted in an interview that he had been promoting condom use since 1977. Taking poems from his “Telephone Booth” series, written throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Pietri clipped, glued and sometimes typed poems onto small envelopes in which he placed a condom which he would then sell to the general public. Infamous for standing around with a cross with condoms nailed to it and/or with signs reading “Safe Sex Saves Not Jesus Saves” and “Poems & Condoms for Sale, One Size Fits All,” Pietri’s condom distribution became a regular fixture on the New York landscape, an image of which even resulted in a postcard for tourists, and demonstrated the creativity and humor with which he approached even this most dire of pandemics. In 1985, Pietri and Bob Holman started organizing a series of readings billed as The Double Talk Show,“the only late night TV talk show for poets (not on TV),” at the Nuyorican Poets Café that mixed poetry with music and performance. A couple of years later, in 1987, Pietri’s play The After After Hours was staged at the Trocadero in downtown Manhattan. In 1988 and 1989, respectively, he staged dramatizations of “Puerto Rican Obituary” in the Taino Theatre at Touro College and at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre, and in 1988, he participated in La Primera Conferencia de Poetas y Escritores Puertorriqueños at City College (CUNY). From 1985-1987 Pietri served on the Board of the Poetry Society of America. The year 1989 was an eventful one for Pietri. Not only was his play The Masses are Asses translated into Spanish (as Las masas son crasas) by Alfredo Matilla Rivas and performed at the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña’s Teatro del Patio by Teatro Bohío Puertorriqueño, but he also co-organized, with fellow poet Bob Holman, a series of poetry readings called “Poets in the Bars: A Celebration of the Oral Tradition.” Funded by the arts organization Creative Time and involving poets Allen Ginsberg, Amiri and Amina Baraka, Kimiko Hahn, Jayne Cortez, Ntozake Shange, Jessica Hagedorn and others, this series of readings brought together groups of poets to read and perform in bars that in the past had been focal points of literary and artistic activity. Among the bars chosen were the Cedar Tavern, the Village Gate, the Lincoln Cocktail Lounge and the After Five. Considered largely successful, this series of readings sought to reach out to nontraditional audiences, specifically those who had been under-exposed to poetry, in a gesture designed to repopularize verse.

As professionally successful as this period was for Pietri, his personal life suffered in the early part of the decade. In addition to the death of Willie Pietri in 1982, Pietri’s brother Frank passed away in 1986, and Pietri’s marriage to his first wife Nancy Phyllis Wallach ended, with Wallach leaving New York with their daughter Diana to return to her family home in Pittsburgh. Pietri would never fully get over the “loss” of his first daughter, with whom he was never able to establish a close relationship, and continued to write letters and poetry dedicated to her lamenting her absence for the rest of his life. Continuously haunted by the specters of the Vietnam War and the consequences of his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Pietri found himself hard-pressed to maintain a stable personal life and, although relatively successful as a writer, to provide a consistent income. Prone to “self-medication,” he could be unpredictable, which, though in keeping with his image as a playful, irreverent and Dada-esque figure, also made him at times unreliable and difficult to relate to. Things in the latter part of the decade began to look up with the start of his relationship with Stephanie Jo Smith and the birth of his second daughter Evava, but this relationship too would end due much in part to his ongoing financial and psychological instability.

Throughout his career, Pietri read and presented his work at numerous spaces in New York and Puerto Rico, in what are now considered iconic and cutting edge Puerto Rican and “downtown” institutions. Among these are the Nuyorican Poets Café, New Rican Village and El Museo del Barrio, as well as the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Taller Latino Americano, the Gas Station, ABC No Rio and The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. He also performed at the University of Puerto Rico, the New Dramatists and at various schools and community spaces throughout New York. Pietri was also in high demand abroad and established a particularly close relationship with Italian admirers of his work, not only by holding readings in Italy, but also through the publication of several translations of his work, including the infamous “Puerto Rican Obituary.” Pietri’s work was also heavily anthologized and appeared in both Puerto Rican/Latino specific texts and those comprised of overviews of avant-garde and experimental poets. The former include The Puerto Rican Poets (1972), Boriquen: Anthology of Puerto Rican Literature (1974), Umbra: Latin/Soul Anthology (1974) and Inventing a Word: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Puerto Rican Poetry (1980), and among the latter are Text-Sound Texts (1980), edited by Richard Kostelanetz, New York: Poems (1980) and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (1999). All told Pietri’s work appears in well over 20 anthologies and has been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Italian and German.

Officially ordained as a Reverend by the Ministry of Salvation in 1987, Pietri inaugurated his Church of the Mother of Tomatoes (La Iglesia de la Madre de Los Tomates) in the early 1990s as a roving performing ministry, taking inspiration from the Protestant ministers of his youth and preaching to the “poetry-deprived.” Already establishing a ministerial role for himself in his AIDS advocacy work, preaching condom use and not religion with slogans such as “Safe Sex is Salvation,” Pietri’s “church” acted as a vehicle for his continued advocacy of absurdist and comedy inflected experiments with form, language and performance, as well as a platform for his work with prison inmates and the mentally ill. That same year, he collaborated with Adal Maldonado on the performance piece Mambo Montage which featured music by and starred the musician Tito Puente. In 1992, Pietri published his collection of plays, Illusions of a Revolving Door. On the 20th anniversary of the publication of his first book of poetry, Puerto Rican Obituary (1973), Pietri restaged and performed in a dramatization of the title poem along with the New Rican Village Alumni Band. In addition that year, he presented his “El Spanglish National Anthem” at the Nuyorican Poets Café and published his first anthology of poetry in Italian, Scarafaggi metropolitani e altre poesie.

In 1994, Pietri and Maldonado inaugurated their project, El Puerto Rican Embassy. Originally conceived by Pietri and Eduardo Figueroa (founder of New Rican Village), the group was created to represent “a new generation of experimental Puerto Rican artists working on the margins of established art movements” (Maldonado,1993) who sought to question and challenge contemporary political issues and cultural aesthetics. The Embassy’s inaugural was appropriately organized as a multi-media exhibition at the Kenkeleba Gallery on East Second Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (Loisaida). The exhibition included art work by such well known figures as Papo Colo, Marcos Dimas, Pepón Osorio, Antonio Martorell and Nitza Tufiño, poetry by Sandra María Estéves, Tato Laviera and Jesús Papoleto Meléndez and music by Louis Bauzo & Carambú and the Juan Ma Trio. Among the individuals honored and given the title of Ambassadors to the Embassy were Miguel Algarín (Poetry), Miriam Colón (Theatre), Willie Colón (Music), Raúl Julia (Film) and Piri Thomas (Letters). Created especially for the occasion was a passport from the Embassy and “El Spirit Republic de Puerto Rico,” granting Puerto Rican citizenship to the island’s many diasporic subjects.

El Puerto Rican Embassy went on to conceive of and sponsor many other exhibitions and projects, such as Maldonado’s photography series “Out of Focus Nuyoricans,” all seeking to re-inscribe the Puerto Rican presence back into national cultural and political narratives and to engender a critical dialogue about the state of Puerto Rico and its people under U.S. governance. El Puerto Rican Embassy continued to be an active site of collaboration for Pietri until the end of his life and provided him with yet another vehicle for the dissemination and development of his unique, critical and humor-filled style of performance and poetic production. In April 1994, Pietri also legally married his partner and collaborator of several years, Margarita Deida; they had been united in an informal ceremony almost two years prior. Their son, Speedo Juan, was born the following year, being raised alongside Deida’s daughter and Pietri’s step-daughter, Carina Luna López.

In the following decade, Pietri continued to be professionally active. Now an elder statesman of the Nuyorican and downtown poetry scenes, he was often called upon to read and present his poetry performances to audiences both in New York and abroad. These included an appearance on the PBS series United States of Poetry (1996), the Venezia-Poesia festival in Venice, Italy (1997), in tributes for the poet and painter Jack Micheline and the poet Allen Ginsberg (1998), at the Words and Voices Festival for Experimental Literature and Music in Heidelberg, Germany (1998), as well as continued appearances at the Nuyorican Poets Café and Taller Latino Americano. Pietri also briefly collaborated with musician Paul Simon on the writing of the book to The Capeman, the story of Salvador Agrón starring singers Ruben Blades and Marc Anthony. He continued to write and stage readings of his own plays, such as El Cabrón, and edited an anthology of poetry with his longtime collaborator Jesús Papoleto Meléndez titled Political Love Poems, which included writers as diverse as Jessica Hagedorn, Che Meléndez, Quincy Troupe, Rosario Ferré, June Jordan, Lolita Lebrón and Victor Hernández Cruz. Starting in 1996, again with Meléndez, Pietri edited the Los Panfleteros Poetry Series, which acted as vehicle for the self-publication and distribution of their poetry and essays. In 2001, Pietri published a second anthology of poems in Italy. Titled Out of Order=Fuori servizio, the book was a bilingual (English/Italian) compilation of his “Telephone Booth” poetry series.

Pietri, who in the past had been frequently sought after by colleagues and aspiring writers for his input on their writing, now found a newer generation of poets and writers who saw him as the prototype for their own experimentations with language, form and content, consulting with him and sending him their manuscripts. Just as Pietri had admired and emulated the poetic style and rantings of Jorge Brandon, up-and-coming writers viewed the seminal performances and writings of Pietri and the rest of the Nuyorican Poets as models for not only pushing formalist boundaries but also for the negotiation and expression of multiple cultural and literary influences. Indeed, Algarín and the Nuyorican Poets Café were among the first to nurture the burgeoning Slam Poetry movement and continued to provide a forum for experimentation from their home base on the Lower East Side.

Pedro Juan Pietri died on March 3, 2004 at the age of 59 from stomach cancer while en route to New York from Mexico, where he had received alternative treatment therapies. His illness deemed terminal by Western doctors, Pietri had sought a more holistic resolution to his cancer outside the U.S., a move that was supported both financially and emotionally by his community of friends, family, writers and poets. A mercurial figure of great talent, Pietri left an indelible mark on Puerto Rican and American letters and helped chart a strikingly original and vibrant course for this first generation of Puerto Rican writers raised on a post-WW II diet of doo-wop, décimas and New York street savvy. Children of both Puerto Rico and New York, the products of syncretism, Pietri and his generation traversed a cultural landscape fraught with questions of belonging, racial tension, class strife and nationalist allegiances, ultimately mapping a course that sought to affirm the hybrid mixture of Puerto Rican and North American influences. Doggedly critical, Pietri employed humor and a playful irrationality to point a viewfinder at politics, culture, and human relationships and behavior, forcing us to look at ourselves in the full regalia of our own absurdity and inviting us to joyfully reconsider the stability of our own identities.


Hernández, Carmen Dolores. Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1997. Pp. 104-118.

Matilla Rivas, Alfredo. “Foreward” (Prólogo) to Illusions of a Revolving Door. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1992. Pp.xi-xxx.

Noel, Tomás Urayoán. “NYPR Blues: Experimentalism, Performance, and the Articulation of Diaspora in Nuyorican Poetry” Unpublished Dissertation Chapter, 2005.

Vélez, Diana. “Pedro Pietri” In Biographical Dictionary of Hispanic Literature in the United States. Edited by Nicolás Kanellos. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989. Pp. 240-244.

Vélez, Diana. “Pedro Pietri” In Latino and Latina Writers Vol. 2. Edited by Alan West-Durán. 2004. Pp.935-949.

Vélez, Diana. “Pedro Pietri” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States. Edited by Suzanne Oboler and Deena J. González. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 378-380.

West, Alan. “Illusions of Revolving Door by Pedro Pietri” In Village Voice (June 8, 1993).

Note: Biographical information was also derived from the collection.

Selected Bibliography:

Illusions of a Revolving Door: Plays, Teatro. Edited by Alfredo Matilla Rivas. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1992.

The Masses are Asses. Maplewood, N.J.: Waterfront Press, 1984.

Las masas son crasas (Translation of The Masses are Asses). Translated by Alfredo Matilla Rivas. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1997.

Obituario puertorriqueño (Translation of Puerto Rican Obituary). Translated by Alfredo Matilla Rivas. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1977.

Out of Order=Fuori servizio. Edited and Translated by Mario Maffi. Cagliari, CUEC, 2001.

Perdido en el museo de historia natural/Lost in the Museum of Natural History. Translated by Alfredo Matilla Rivas. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Huracán, 1981.

Puerto Rican Obituary. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973.

Scarafaggi metropolitani e altre poesie (a cura di Mario Maffi). Edited by Mario Maffi. Milan, Italy: Baldini & Castoldi, 1993.

Traffic Violations. Maplewood, N.J.: Waterfront Press, 1983.


63 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


The Pedro Pietri Papers are an invaluable resource for information on the eclectic career of one of the Puerto Rican community’s most prolific and experimental writers, as well as one of the founders of the Nuyorican poetry movement. Collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, photographs, flyers, posters, writings, artifacts, artwork, videotapes and audiocassettes.


The collection is divided into the following series and sub-series:

I. Biographical and Personal Information

II. Correspondence

III. Works by Pietri

1. Poetry 2. Plays and Other Performance Works 3. Film/Television Scripts and Treatments 4. Essays and Other Writings 5. Notebooks

IV. Works by Others

1. Poetry 2. Plays 3. Film / Television Scripts and Treatments 4. Essays and Other Writings

V. Publications

VI. Subject Files

VII. Organizations

VIII. Photographs

IX. Artwork

X. Artifacts

XI. Audio-Visual

XII. Unprocessed Additions

Other Finding Aids

English / Spanish bilingual finding aid available, see External Documents.

Separated Materials

Books transferred to Library Special Collections.



Pedro Pietri Papers
Mario H. Ramírez with the assistance of Melisa Panchano, Silvia Rodríguez, Erika Suárez and Orlando Torres.
April 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processed with a grant from a congressional directed initiative sponsored by Congressman José Serrano and administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Funding was also provided by the Council of the City of New York.

Revision Statements

  • May 2022: An inventory for unprocessed additions was added by Susan M. Kline.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Repository

Silberman Building, Hunter College
2180 Third Ave. Rm. 122
New York New York 10065

About the Collections

Our collections consist of personal papers from prominent Puerto Rican artists, elected officials, social activists, writers, as well as the records of community-based organizations. Our largest collection, the Offices of the Government of Puerto Rico in the United States (OGPRUS) Records, measures approximately 2,900 cubic feet and contains an extraordinary amount of information regarding Puerto Rican migrants and the government institutions established to assist them. The collections date from the 1890s to the present, and document Puerto Rican communities in the Northeast, Midwest, Florida, California and Hawaii.