Miguel Piñero was a playwright, actor, and cofounder of the Nuyorican Poets Café with Miguel Algarín, Pedro Pietri, and others. Born in Gurabo, Puerto Rico, he and his family moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan when he was four. He father later abandoned the family, leaving Piñero to steal food for his family. Piñero later became affiliated with a gang and committed many robberies with friends, and convicted of robbery in 1964 and again in 1972. During his second incarceration, he wrote the play Short Eyes as part of the inmates playwriting workshop, and upon his parole in 1973, the play was presented in several New York City venues; the play would be nominated for six Tony Awards, and winning the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and an Obie Award for the best play of the year.
Piñero soon followed this success with a rush of plays, including Sideshow (1974), The Guntower (1976), The Sun Always Shines for the Cool (1976), Eulogy for a Small-Time Thief (1977), and Playland Blues (1980). He also coedited Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings (1975).
Piñero died in 1988. The film Piñero (2001), directed by Leon Ichaso and starring Benjamin Bratt, is about Piñero’s life.