When he was six he was sent to St. Anthony's School for Boys in New Mexico (an orphanage). He ran away often, but did not finally escape until he was 11. The next years were spent on the streets, in detention centers, jails, etc., during which time he taught himself to read and began to write poetry.
According to another version of his life, his mother abandoned the family when he was four and he went to his grandparents. After running away from the orphanage aged 13 he was on the streets and in jail. He had infrequent contact with his father. After 30 years he found his mother, but although they had friendly contact she refused to acknowledge their relationship, and she was murdered by her new husband in 1985.
Baca is considered by some to be the best living US poet.
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