RIP Miguel Algarin Jr., Founder of Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Longtime Lower East Sider and founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Miguel Algarin Jr. has died. He was 79. A poet, playwright, activist and professor who created the famous spoken word salon in his living room on the Lower East Side, Nuyorican Poets Cafe continues to thrive on East 3rd Street, over forty years later.

The Cafe’s poetry slam team has been ranked among the top five teams in the nation almost every year since 1990.  They won the National Poetry Slam in 1998, and are currently ranked third in the United States.

In 2001, their Grand Slam Champion, Mayda Del Valle, became the Individual National Slam Poet Champion.  Another poetry slam team alum, Eboni Hogan, won the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2010.

A tribute message was sent out by the organization:

We reflect on the legacy of our organization’s founder, Miguel Algarín, who passed on Monday after a decades-long career as a poet, activist, educator, leader and advocate for the literary and performing arts.He was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico and in 1950, his family moved to New York City’s Loisaida, the neighborhood which – due to Miguel’s visionary work – would later become the epicenter of the Nuyorican Literary movement.
In his apartment, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe was born as an outspoken and passionate collective of poets, musicians, theater artists and activists.

Miguel was a brilliant poet, an influential professor and leader, and a supportive mentor who inspired and guided generations of artists.
He edited popular anthologies of poetry and theater, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Action; he helped launch the Nuyorican Literary movement; and he played an instrumental role in popularizing spoken word and performance poetry across the United States and around the world.Miguel and the Cafe’s co-founders amplified the voices and championed the work of Latinx, Black, LGBTQ+ and immigrant artists who were not accepted by the academic, entertainment or publishing industries.Thanks to their pioneering work, and thanks to our community of friends and supporters, the Cafe has remained a vibrant home for creative expression since 1973.The literary world owes Miguel a debt of gratitude and we wouldn’t be here today without his groundbreaking efforts.

During this most challenging of years, we’re grateful that the Cafe’s community has helped us to continue serving artists, audiences and students as we have transitioned our open mic, poetry, Latin jazz, theater and education programming online.
While the Cafe remains closed due to COVID restrictions, we will host an online tribute to Miguel later this month, and an in-person tribute as soon as we’re allowed to reopen.

We look forward to seeing you all soon to celebrate the life and work of Miguel Algarín.

Thank you,
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Team

You can read our coverage of Nuyorican Poets Cafe and a story about their successful renovation in 2012 here.