AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT GRAND GOVERNING COUNCIL
March 17, 1934- February 13, 2008
Jazz Hipster | Pinto | Cockroach Poet | Human Rights Activist | Xicanindio | Elder | Comrade
It is with profound sadness and heartache that we inform you of the passing of Calaca Press Field Commander, Raúl R. Salinas.
Raul, the author of the seminal Chicano experience poem, Un Trip Through the Mind Jail, was not only an accomplished poet but a dedicated community activist who gained a political consciousness while serving approximately 13 years inside some of America’s most notorious prisons (Huntsville, Soledad, and Leavenworth among others). While in prison at Marion he was befriended by Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda (famed for an armed assault on congress on March 1, 1954 with fellow Nationalists including Lolita Lebron). Sr. Miranda was a major influence on Raul’s lifework. Imprisoned during the early Chicano Movement years he was active in the prison rights struggles of that time. His book, raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen: Selected Writings by Raúl Salinas (edited by protégé Louis G. Mendoza) highlights his struggles and victories inside America’s prison system. Including winning a landmark prison rights case.
After his release from prison in 1973 he dedicated his life to Chicano and Native American causes. He was a member of the Centro de la Raza in Seattle, the American Indian Movement, a cofounder of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and various other progressive organizations dedicated to defending the rights and interests of all working class and colonized people. A true internationalist he was committed to supporting Puerto Rican independence (as well as ending the bombing on Vieques), the Cuban Revolution, The Nicaraguan Sandinistas, the Zapatistas in Chiapas and the Bolivarian Process of Presidente Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela among many other internationalist struggles.
After serving many years of forced exile in Washington state (where he helped defend Native American fishing rights), he eventually returned to his home in Austin, TX. Shortly thereafter he opened Resistencia Bookstore and Red Salmon Arts which became a cultural and political hub for East Austin’s Chicano community.
In 1999, after hearing about this “cool vato de aquellas,” Calaca Press took a chance by calling Resistencia Bookstore out of the blue to introduce ourselves and seek a meeting. After a somewhat cold conversation we later flew to San Antonio for the Inter-American Book Fair where we were to gather. Instantly we hit it off and plans were made to bring Raul to San Diego to record a couple poems for volume 2 of our Raza Spoken Here audio series. After an amazing recording session featuring Raúl and Taco Shop Poets rhythm section Mikey Figgins on bass and Kevin P. Green on drums it was decided to go forward with a full CD of Raul’s work. A few months later Raul came back to San Diego (sleeping many a night on the infamous striped couch in our tiny apartment in Barrio Lomas) to finish recording what would become Los Many Mundos of raúlrsalinas: Un Poetic Jazz Viaje con Friends. During this session we recorded, but never released, Un Trip Through the Mind Jail. Perhaps the only quality recording of this major work of Chicano literature.
It was during 2000 that Raúl affectionately and facetiously dubbed Calaca owners Brent E. Beltrán and Consuelo Manríquez de Beltrán the Chairman and Comandante CHElo, while calling himself the Field Commander of Calaca Press. Raul helped create and foment the current mystique that surrounds our Calacaverse and the work that we do. Between 2000 and 2004 Raul made numerous trips to San Diego to visit Calacalandia and became a regular amongst the Calacas and SD’s Chicano art/activist scene. Without the example of our Field Commander, Calaca Press and our organization the Red CalacArts Collective (whom we borrowed the Red and Arts from Red Salmon Arts as an homage), would not be what it is today.
Our Field Commander and comrade will be missed and remembered. He will always hold a special place in our collective memory.
Adelante, compañero, siempre adelante.
El Chairman y La Comandante CHElo
he started breathing in san anto
now die, just die
by Tomás Riley