Born in Mexico City, Carlos Amaraz soon moved with his family to the United States, settling eventually in East Los Angeles. Almaraz was aware from an early age of a "bifurcation" in his surroundings. He studied at California State College at Los Angeles, and spent a few years in New York before returning to California. In the 1970s he became involved with César Chávez's farm workers' movement, Luis Valdez's Teatro Campesino, and Mechanicano, a cooperative gallery in East Lost Angeles. Almaraz was one of the founding members of the Chicano art collective Los Four, whose other members included Gilbert "Magu" Luján, Roberto de la Rocha, and Frank Romero.
Jonathan Yorba Arte Latino: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (New York and Washington, D.C.: Watson-Guptill Publications, in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2001)