Juan Felipe Herrera, a Mexican-American poet who is the son of migrant farm workers, has been appointed the United States’ first Latino poet laureate by The Library of Congress.
Herrera’s prolific body of work, influenced by a surrealistic and experimental style and largely based on the Latino immigrant experience in the United States and the campesino culture, includes poetry collections such as Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream, Notebooks of a Chile Verde Smuggler, and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border.
Herrera has also written short stories and children’s books, including Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, the most recent one. He will succeed Charles Wright as the nation’s 21st official poet.
“His poems engage in a serious sense of play—in language and in image—that I feel gives them enduring power,” James H. Billington of the Librarian of Congress said in a statement. “I see how they champion voices, traditions and histories, as well as a cultural perspective, which is a vital part of our larger American identity.”
Born in California in 1948, Herrera spent part of his childhood living in trailers and tents and moving with his parents to different agricultural areas in the south of the state.
Here you can watch Herrera in action in a clip from Go chanting, Libre!, a short documentary that profiles Chicano poets who taught poetry to children in California schools.
Quartz has reached out to Herrera for comment and will update this post with any response.