Victor Hernández Cruz was born on February 6, 1949, in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He moved to the United States in 1954 with his family and attended high school in New York City. He began writing at age fifteen “to balance a lot of worlds together. The culture of my parents and the new and modern culture of New York, its architecture, its art, and its vibrant intellectual thought.”
In 1966, Hernández Cruz published the chapbook Papo Got His Gun through Calle Once Publications. His first full-length poetry collection, Snaps, was published by Random House in 1969 when he was twenty.
In the 1970s, Hernández Cruz resided in the San Francisco Bay Area, establishing himself as a unique voice in the Nuyorican school of poets. His literary work delves into the connection between English and his native Spanish, experimenting with grammatical and syntactical rules in both languages to form his bilingual style.
Hernández Cruz is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, including Guayacán (Ishmael Reed Publishing, 2022); Beneath the Spanish (Coffee House Press, 2017); In the Shadow of Al-Andalus (Coffee House Press, 2011); The Mountain in the Sea (Coffee House Press, 2006); and Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1965–2000 (Coffee House Press, 2001), which was shortlisted for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the International Griffin Poetry Prize. His earlier works include Panoramas (Coffee House Press, 1997), Red Beans (Coffee House Press, 1991), and Tropicalization (Reed & Cannon Co,1976). He is also the editor of the anthology Paper Dance: 55 Latino Poets (Persea, 2000). His poems have been translated into ten languages.
In the citation for the International Griffin Poetry Prize, the judges wrote: “Victor Hernández Cruz has long been the defining poet of that complex bridge between the Latino and mainland cultures of the U.S. “Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1965–2000″ proves the extraordinary range of this great, enduring poet, whose articulately persuasive humor and intelligence bear persistent witness to a meld of peoples.”
His other honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Hernández Cruz is a co-founder of both the East Harlem Gut Theatre in New York and the Before Columbus Foundation and a former editor of Umbra magazine. He has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, San Diego, San Francisco State College, and the University of Michigan. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2008 to 2013.
Hernández Cruz lives in Morocco.