Felipe Cantú

Felipe Cantú

Daniel Valdez, Clarisse Luna, and Felipe Cantú performing in The Fifth Season on the flatbed of a truck, Salinas, ca. 1966. Photo by John Kouns.

Described by Luis Valdez as a “comic genius,” Cantú, 44, had no formal education and he was living in Delano with his wife and seven children. He was a strikebreaker who was pulled out of the fields and joined El Teatro Campesino. “He vaguely resembled silent movie comic Ben Turpin,” Luis Valdez wrote, “but his hero was Mexican movie star Cantinflas. With his comic timing and rubber face, Felipe created the character of Don Sotaco, the proverbial farm worker, establishing a feisty tone that defines the company to this day.”

Felipe Cantú "Don Sotaco" and Clarisse Luna "Doña Sotaca" performing in The Fifth Season on the flatbed of a truck, Salinas, ca. 1966. Felipe Cantú "Don Sotaco" y Clarisse Luna "Doña Sotaca" actuando en La Quinta Temporada en la plataforma de un camión, Salinas, circa 1966.

Felipe Cantú “Don Sotaco” and Clarisse Luna “Doña Sotaca” in a scene of the “The Fifth Season,” Salinas, 1966

Felipe Cantú and Clarisse Luna perform with El Teatro Campesino on the flatbed of a truck. Children in the audience follow the scene attentively. The acto “The Fifth Season” was first created in 1966 and represented how farmworkers could win the strike by taking away the employer’s earnings during winter. At the end of the act, after the grower signed the contract, the character of Winter removes his sign, declares it to be the fifth season, the season of Social Justice, and pushes Don Coyote off the stage.


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