Pedro Pietri

Pedro Pietri, a poet and dramatist of the Puerto Rican diaspora, was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, was raised in Harlem in New York City, was drafted into the Army in 1966 and served in Vietnam with a light infantry unit. Honorably discharged in 1968, he returned to New York and to writing, which he began as a student at Harlem High.

He first read his most famous work — "Puerto Rican Obituary" — in 1969 in a church seized by the Young Lords. The epic was published in 1973. Meanwhile he helped start the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

He would go to become of the city’s best known poets capturing what it was like for Puerto Ricans to live in New York. In the 1970s he helped start the legendary Nuyorican Poets Café on the Lower East Side. He published more than 20 books of poetry and plays. His best known work was the epic poem "Puerto Rican Obituary.”

Pietri said: “They used to draft us from Puerto Rico. That's the reason Puerto Ricans were made American citizens in the first place. The purpose of the Jones Act. These two soldiers who were drafted in Puerto Rico approached me and my friend, my good friend Angel Luna, to alert us and awaken us--to make us aware of the fact that this was not our war to fight. We have no business going there, invading total strangers who share a lot in common with us. So anyway, they told us we should just go AWOL. At least it would guarantee our lives. We could come out of it alive. And me and my friend Angel Luna--we were sort of--like--colonized, right?--being raised up here. We decided that--well, you know, we both stated that our mothers would have heart attacks if we desert our patriotic obligation and not fulfill our military duty in service to this country. So they went AWOL and me and Angel Luna went to Vietnam. And I came back a year later totally out of my mind and I call up to find out his whereabouts and he had died the first month there. I wrote a poem for his mother in this book. It's written in Spanish and I--afterwards--I will translate it into English. I'll read this poem because that blew my whole mind. "It's called "Para La Madre de Angel Luna." I mean it really blew my mind. When I speak about this I have memories afterwards. “


 
"Para La Madre de Angel Luna." – Pedro Pietri

El hijo tuyo queria irse AWOL
La noche antes de salir para Vietnam
Con su nombre boricua adentro de ese uniforme norteamericano
Fabricado en Wall Street por esos inhumanos
Que quieren conquistar al mundo entero.
El hijo tuyo comprendia quien era el enemigo verdadero,
queria irse AWOL la noche antes de salir para Vietnam
Pero no se fue porque no queria hacer a su madre sufrir
Cuando la policia militar fuera a su hogar en el South Bronx para encarcelarlo.
La noche antes de salir para Vietnam
Lo ultimo que el hijo tuyo le dijo a su companeros boricuas fue:
"Si no regreso vivo, diganle a mi madre querida que me entierre
En la tierra de Borinquen."


 
For the Mother of Angel Luna (translation)
 
Your son queria to go AWOL
The night before he leaves for Vietnam
With his name boricua inside of that North American
Uniform made on Wall Street by those cruel ones
Who want to conquer the entire world.
Your son comprendia the true enemy
Queria to go AWOL the night before leaving for Vietnam

But he didn’t go away because queria he doesn’t want his mother to suffer

When the military police go to his home in the South Bronx to jail him.
the night before leaving for Vietnam

Your son’s last words to his companeros boricuas “If I don’t return alive,

Diganle to my mother to bury me in the earth of Borinquen.”
When the military policia went to his home in the South Bronx to jail him.