The Early Years-Piñero was born on December 19, 1946 in Gurabo, Puerto Rico to Miguel Angel Gomez Ramos and Adelina Piñero. In 1950, when Miguel was four, he moved with his parents and sister Elizabeth to Loisaida (or Lower East Side) in New York. His father abandoned the family in 1954 when his mother was pregnant with their fifth child. His mother then moved into a basement and began receiving welfare. He attended four different schools, three public and one parochial. He would steal food for his family to eat. His first of what would be many criminal convictions was at the age of eleven for theft. He was sent to the Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx and also to Otisville State Training School for Boys. He joined a street gang called “The Dragons” when he was 13, and when he was 14 he was hustling in the streets. READ MORE
In 1972, when Piñero was 25 years old, he was incarcerated in Sing Sing prison for second-degree armed robbery. His first literary work was Black Woman with a Blonde Wig On. Marvin Felix Camillo, the director of The Family, an acting troupe made up of ex-cons, submitted the poem to a contest, which it won. The warden of Sing Sing then became concerned that “contraband” was being taken from the prison and nearly put Camillo in jail after seeing an article in the newspaper. While serving time in prison, he wrote the play Short Eyes as part of the inmates playwriting workshop. Mel Gussow came to see it, and due to his review in the New York Times, the director of the Theater at Riverside Church wanted Piñero to put it up at his place.
The play was nominated for six Tony Awards. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and an Obie Award for the “best play of the year”. The play was also a success in Europe. It catapulted Piñero to literary fame. Short Eyes was published in book form by the editorial house Hill & Wang. It became the first play written by a Puerto Rican to be put on Broadway.
In the 1970s, Piñero co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Café (“New York-Puerto Rican”) with a group of artists, one of which, Miguel Algarín, would become one of his best friends. The Cafe is a place for performance of poetry about the experience of being a Puerto Rican in New York.