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SMSU to Host Jimmy Santiago Baca, Sept. 19-20

Published Thursday, September 07, 2023

Jimmy Santiago Baca. Photo by Lonnie J. Anderson
Jimmy Santiago Baca. Photo by Lonnie J. Anderson

The SMSU Creative Writing Program and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will host Jimmy Santiago Baca on Sept. 19-20, 2023. He will be on campus visiting classes and giving a public reading on Wednesday, Sept. 20 in CH 201 at 7:00 p.m.

Jimmy Santiago Baca is an award-winning American poet, memoirist, and screenwriter. Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico of Chicano and Apache descent, he was left in the care of a grandparent when he was two. His parents divorced and soon after, his mother was murdered by her second husband, and his father died of alcoholism. From age five, he was abandoned in a New Mexico orphanage until he ran away at age 11. He ended up on the street. By his 20th year, he was convicted on drug charges. He served a five-year sentence, most of which he spent in isolation. He taught himself to read and write in prison. Only later did he pass the GED exam after never attending school in his life. From the darkness of prison, he began to turn his life around and emerged as a world-renowned poet and artist of the spoken and written word.

Today he is in demand as a speaker, poet, teacher, and advocate for under-served communities. He has written numerous poetry collections, memoirs, novels, and screenplays. He is a winner of the International Award for his memoir A Place to Stand, which has been made into a documentary* of the same title. His work has also been recognized with the American Book Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the International Hispanic Heritage Award, among many other accolades.

In 2006, Baca was awarded the Cornelius P. Turner Award, which honors GED graduates who have made “outstanding contributions” in areas such as education, justice, and social welfare.

Baca has conducted writing workshops in prisons, libraries, and universities across the country for more than 30 years. In 2004 he launched Cedar Tree, a literary nonprofit designed to provide writing workshops, training, and outreach programs for at-risk youth, prisoners and ex-prisoners, and disadvantaged communities. Baca holds a BA in English and an honorary PhD in literature from the University of New Mexico.

Baca is the first guest in the Visiting Writers Series hosted by SMSU each academic year. His reading on Sept. 20 is free and open to the public. Baca’s visit is co-hosted by the SMSU Creative Writing Program with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

* NOTE: In anticipation of his visit, McFarland Library has paid for access to the documentary film based on his bestselling memoir, A Place to Stand.

To access the documentary: 

  • Start at the McFarland Library homepage (
  • Click on the A-Z databases tab, and from the dropdown choose “Kanopy”
  • Type the name of the film (A Place to Stand) in the search box
  • Click on the film to play

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