Born in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, John Ross
grew up in a lively cultural ambiance informed by jazz, abstract
expressionist painting, radical politics, and Beat poetry. At 18,
Ross was a younger member of the Beat Generation, reading his poetry
in Greenwich Village bars with the great bass player Charles Mingus.
In 1957, Ross hit the road following the Beat trail that Burroughs
and Kerouac and Ginsberg et al had blazed to Mexico City. Soon he
had taken up residence in an indigenous community in the Meseta
Purepecha of the state of Michoacan, where he grew a garden, built
himself a home, and sat down to write the Great American Novel.
Six years later when Ross returned to the United States, he was
nabbed by the FBI and incarcerated at Terminal Island federal
penitentiary in San Pedro California for refusal to report for
induction in the U.S. Army, the first resister to be jailed for
refusing service in Vietnam.
In 2005, Ross returned to San Pedro to receive the American Civil
Liberties Union's annual "Uppie" (for Upton Sinclair) award for his
penultimate cult classic "Murdered by Capitalism – A Memoir of 150
Years of Life & Death on the U.S. Left."
During the 1960s, John Ross was active on many class war fronts -
tenant organizing, building anti-racist coalitions, and civil
disobedience against the war - for which he was regularly beaten and
jailed by the San Francisco police.
In the early 1970s, the author stepped back from the barricades and
took up freelance journalism, reporting on environmental politics and
social movements in California, Spain, and North Africa. In 1984, he
won a grant to investigate guerrilla formations in the Andes, filing
some of the first reports on Peru's Shining Path for Pacific News
Following the terrible September 1985 8.2 earthquake in Mexico City,
Ross returned to the city he first knew as a young Beat and took up
residence in the old quarter or "Centro Historico", the ancient Aztec
island of Tenochtitlan, where he lives still.
Now the dean of foreign correspondents in Mexico, Ross continues to
report for Noticias Aliadas (Peru), the San Francisco Bay Guardian,
and the Texas Observer, and is a regular contributor to U.S.
publications like the Progressive, the Nation, and Counterpunch (on
line), in addition to the Mexican Left daily La Jornada. Since 1996,
Ross has published a weekly newsletter now called Blindman's Buff
(formerly Mexico Barbaro.) His investigations into electoral fraud
and human rights abuses in Mexico, environmental carnage, and the
struggles of Indians and farmers for justice have won an assortment
of awards down the years.
Since its earliest hour nearly 15 years ago now, Ross has accompanied
the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, breaking the story of the
impending uprising in a small northern California weekly weeks before
it occurred, and writing four volumes chronicling this unique
indigenous movement - "Rebellion From the Roots" (American Book
Award winner 1995), "The Annexation of Mexico" (1998), "The War
Against Oblivion" (2001), and "Zapatistas! Making Another World
Possible – Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006" published by Nation
John Ross has written eight books of fiction and non-fiction.
"Murdered By Capitalism" (Nation Books 2004) is partially a personal
history of 40 years on the barricades of the Americas north and
south, and partially the strange story of the U.S. Left during the
past century and a half. "(Murdered by Capitalism) is a rip-snorting
and honorable account of an outlaw tradition in American politics
which too seldom gets past the bouncers at the gates of our national
narrative" wrote reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon of the work.
Ross has continued to pursue both his political and poetic concerns
over the decades. With ten chapbooks of poetry in and out of print,
the latest of which "Bomba!" is hot off the press from Calaca de
Pelon, Ross continues to be an active performer and spoken word
artist, appearing recently with the Godfather of the Beats Lawrence
Ferlinghetti at both Bellas Artes in Mexico City and Lawrence's famed
City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.
John Ross's continuing participation in the on-going resistance to
Washington's imperialist crusades has been congruent with his stance
against the bloodletting in Vietnam. On the eve of the U.S.invasion
of Iraq in 2003, Ross was part of the Human Shield brigade in Baghdad
and later journeyed to Palestine where he was beaten savagely by
Israeli settlers while picking olives in the Nablus valley.
Now an elder in his seventh decade spinning around the planet, Ross
does not consider retiring as an active combatant in the worldwide
struggle for peace and social justice any time soon. "Movement is
what keeps me alive" he tells friends and comrades, "like the
pensioners in Mexico say 'parar es morir' ('to stop is to die.') I'm
going to keep marching until I drop. I believe another world is
From: The Annexation of Mexico