LATINO VOICES
01/10/2013 06:03 pm ET

Richard Blanco: From Cuba, First Latino Inaugural Poet

“Richard Blanco was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States,” and now he will serve as the Inaugural poet at the swearing-in ceremony this year, announced the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC) on Wednesday.

At 44, Blanco is also the youngest-ever Inaugural poet and the first Hispanic and LGBT person to recite a poem at the swearing-in ceremony.

"I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco said in a press release. “In many ways, this is the very ‘stuff’ of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life’s story—America’s story, really.”

Born in Spain to Cuban exiled parents, Blanco’s family immigrated to New York where he was born, eventually settling in Miami. As a writer, the artist explores and reveals in his pieces his cultural roots in response to his experiences living as a Cuban-American in the United States.

“As a Cuban-American questions of ‘Where do I belong?’ and ‘What is home?’ had always been at the center of my being and my poetry,” said Blanco about what inspired him to create a collection of poems portraying his personal journey.

His relationship with his parents, the passing of loved ones, and his family lives shaped by the exile have also influenced his work. He explores his own voice as a Latino gay man in America, while questioning the idea of personal identity and the meaning of home.

Blanco's work, including his first collection, "City of a Hundred Fires", second book of poetry, "Directions to The Beach of the Dead", and third collection, "Looking for The Gulf Motel", have gained him many recognitions through his career, such as the Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh and the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award.

In addition to writing poetry, Blanco has also collaborated as faculty for several educations organizations, as well as contributed to strengthen communities where he works with students on the creation of poetry.

This is a special occasion for Blanco, not just because he will be honored with such an important opportunity, but also because the artist is a President Barack Obama advocate, who has supported his presidential campaign from the start.

“Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to his life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background,” Blanco said to The New York Times. “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him.”

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