Luis Valdez, one of ten children, was born in 1940 in Delano, California, to campesinos, or farm workers. When he was six years old, he watched a teacher use part of a paper bag to make papier-mâché masks for a theater production. This experience transformed his worldview and eventually led him to the theater. His experiences in the fields, however, lasted until he was eighteen. Going to work in the fields at the age of six, he knew the value of hard work and determination. It was not easy for Valdez to become a writer. He would do work in the fields all day and during any break or at night he would study novels.
He began college at San Jose State College as a math and physics major, after less than a year he joined the theater and declared a major in English. He wrote and acted in plays at San Jose State, where his first full-length play, The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa (1964), was produced.
After college he joined the famous San Francisco Mime Troupe. In 1965, still a member of Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers Union, he founded El Teatro Campesino, or the Farm Workers Theater, for which he became artistic director and playwright. The theater, which has won a number of awards and is now part of the Mexican American Centro Campesino Cultural in Fresno, began as a theater for striking farm workers and their union, earning money writing for the union and spreading news about its activities.
Valdez's early link to farming was his influence for writing. He mainly wrote plays about the poor treatment of the farm workers that he once shed sweat with. He did not agree with the American government using their services at its' disposal. Politicians who use false representatives of minorities to mask their indifference to groups denied their place in the spotlight influenced most of all Valdez. He wrote several plays in a form he called mito, or myth. Los Vendidos (The Sellouts) was written in 1967 and continues to be performed. I Don't Have to Show You No Stinking Badges! (1986), set in California during Ronald Reagan's presidency, concerns Buddy Villa and his wife, Connie, who have spent their working lives as extras in TV and films. Videotaped inserts and music make this play a multimedia experience.
In addition to his activities as a playwright, Luis Valdez also directs films and plays. He directed the film Zoot Suit (1981) and the film La Bamba (1987), and he also wrote the script for that film. In 1987, he produced a television version of his 1983 play, Corridos! Tales of Passion and Revolution. Performances of Corridos! filled a relatively large house in San Francisco for six months before moving to Los Angeles.
Los Vendidos was first performed in 1967 for El Teatro Campesino and was awarded an Emmy in 1972. In this brief play Valdez deftly explores whites' stereotypical images of Mexicans while also exposing those who willingly play stereotypical roles. ...