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Lucha Corpi: 1945—: Poet, Novelist

Immigrated To United States

Lucha was born in Jáltipan, Mexico, a tropical region located along the Gulf Coast. At nine, she moved with her family to San Luis Potosí. She later poetically recalled these early environments in Where Fireflies Dance, an autobiographical book for children published in 1997. Her father, Miguel Ángel Corpi, insisted that she and her sister receive the same education as their six brothers. In her interview with Ikas, she recalled her father's words: "'You have to do your homework, you have to study, you have to get good grades, you have to go to college, to the university, you have to have a career.'"

Corpi trained for two years to become a dentist, but she told Ikas, "When I had to do my first molar extraction and the first ten fillings, I knew I was going to go crazy if I ever became a dentist." She met Guillermo Hernández, who introduced her to philosophy and literature. In 1964 they married and immigrated to the United States so that he could study at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1967 their son, Arturo, was born.

In 1970 Corpi and her husband divorced, leaving her devastated. She had very few friends, and there was a young son to support. Although she considered returning to Mexico, she feared that she would be marginalized as a divorced woman. She recalled to Ikas, "I was very angry at my own Mexican culture for not allowing me as a woman to have the possibility of a wholesome life." In the 1970s Corpi resumed her studies at the University of California, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in comparative literature in 1975. She participated in the Chicano civil rights movement in the 1970s. During this period Corpi helped found Aztlán Cultural, a cultural arts service. She also worked with Comité Popular Educativo de la Raza to build a network of bilingual childcare centers in Oakland. She told Ikas, "Cities like Oakland I see as the lab where the American Dream is tested every day, for we have to figure out a way to handle that diversity of ethnicity every day."

At a Glance . . .

Born Lucha Corpi on April 13, 1945, in Jáltipan , Mexico; immigrated to the United States, 1964; married Guillermo Hernández, 1964 (divorced, 1970); children: Arturo. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A, 1975; San Francisco State University, M.A., comparative and world literature, 1979.

Career: University of California, Berkeley, vice-chair of Chicano Studies executive committee, 1970-71, coordinator of Chicano Studies Library, 1970-72; Oakland Public Neighborhood Centers, Oakland, CA, teacher of English as a second language, 1973-; founding member, Aztlán Cultural, 1971, and Centro Chicano de Escritores, 1980; member, Oakland Museum and Latin American Commission; member, Sisters in Crime.

Memberships: California Association of Teachers of English as a Second Language.

Awards: Fellow of National Endowment for the Arts, 1979-80; winner of Palabra nueva literary contest, for short story "The Martyrs of the Soul," 1983; first place in the Chicano Literary Contest, University of California at Irvine, for short story "Shadows of Ebbing Water," 1984; awarded Creative Arts Fellowship in fiction by the City of Oakland, 1990; named poet laureate at Indian University, 1990.

Addresses: Home—Oakland, CA. Office—Clinton Park Adult School, 655 East 14th St., Oakland CA 94606.

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