Pedro Pietri, 59, seminal Nuyorican poet, playwright
Pedro Pietri, who embodied the spirit of Nuyorican poetry and was a founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café in the East Village, died last Wednesday of stomach cancer at the age of 59. He was on a plane back to New York from Tijuana, Mexico, where he had been receiving treatment, when he died.
Pietri was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. His family moved to Harlem in the late 1940s. He served in the Vietnam War for two years in the 1960s, during which he was exposed to Agent Orange.
He helped found the Nuyorican Poets Café, currently at 236 E. Third St. near Avenue C, in the 1970s, which popularized the style of slam poetry, and was the inspiration for the generation of Latino poets who followed him, known as Nuyorican poets.
Pietri wrote more than 20 books, including poetry and plays. His most famous work, however, was Puerto Rican Obituary, about the lives of several Puerto Rican immigrants striving to make their way in America.
He is survived by his wife, Margarita Deida Pietri, four children, a brother, Joe, and a sister, Carmen Pietri Diaz.
A public viewing was held Sunday at 1st Spanish Methodist Church, at 163 E. 111th St. A funeral Mass was held Monday.