NEW YORK -- Pedro Pietri, a cofounder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe who composed poems and plays that illustrated the lives of Puerto Rican New Yorkers, died of renal failure on Wednesday. He was 59.
He was best known for "Puerto Rican Obituary," a poem published in 1973 that chronicled the lives of five people who left Puerto Rico for mainland America with plans that never bore fruit. The piece was embraced by prideful young Puerto Ricans in New York -- called Nuyoricans for short.
Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and raised in Harlem, Mr. Pietri began composing his own works while attending Harlem High School. He served in Vietnam but said his experience there drove him farther to the left.
He first read "Puerto Rican Obituary" at First Spanish Methodist Church in solidarity with the Young Lords, an activist group that briefly took over the church in 1969. He later continued to be involved as an activist including anti-AIDS causes.
Mr. Pietri's work was inspirational for many young Latino poets, including those who were regulars at Nuyorican on the Lower East Side. He garnered attention for spoken word pieces and songs such as "El Puerto Rican Embassy" and "The Spanglish National
Mr. Pietri leaves his wife, Margarita; a sister Carmen Pietri Diaz; a brother, Joe; and four children.