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Barrios was an essential poet of the Black community of Uruguay and one of the founders of the Partido Autóctono Negro. His poetry demonstrated an understanding of the class-based racism in his society and expressed hope that this could change with the development of a racial consciousness (awareness of negritude) and renovation of education.
He was optimistic regarding this because he believed in the fundamental equality of people and races and expressed this in his poems. One of his outlets of expression was the journal Nuestra Raza, which he co-founded with his sister Maria in 1917. In 1937, he married Maruja Pereyra, an activist and fellow Nuestra Raza journalist. When he published Piel Negra in 1947, he became one of only two Black Uruguayan poets published in book form (the other was Virginia Brindis de Salas).
As one of the most notable Black intellectuals in the country, he was in contact with the larger world of black intellectual activity, corresponding with Langston Hughes and others. Pilar Barrios died on June 22, 1974, in Montevideo, Uruguay.