Luis Valdez

Luis Valdez

El Teatro Campesino member Luis Valdez performing, Berkeley, January 1967. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Luis Valdez was born in a farm labor camp in Delano in 1940. He studied at San José State College, where he earned a B.A. in English and wrote his first play, The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa. In 1964, he joined the San Francisco Mime Troupe, where he learned the techniques of agitprop (agitation and propaganda) theatre. He went back to Delano, where his family still lived, to propose to César Chávez to create Teatro Campesino.

“El Teatro Campesino exists somewhere between Brecht and Cantinflas,” he wrote in his notebook. In early 1966, Valdez also wrote the Plan of Delano to be read in each town through which they marched between Delano and Sacramento. Valdez authored and directed many plays. He also directed the films Zoot Suit (1981), based on his own play, and La Bamba (1987), based on the life of Ritchie Valens.

El Teatro Campesino members Doug Rippey, Luis Valdez, and Daniel Valdez performing, Berkeley, January 1967. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Luis Valdez: Teatro Campesino and Tortillería La Azteca (video)

Luis Valdez talks about Emmon Clarke’s photographs at the Bradley Center showing El Teatro Campesino performers in front of Tortillería La Azteca in Delano. These photos were taken in the early fall, of 1966, after the DiGiorgio campaign in Delano, Lamont, and Borrego Springs. The performers are standing in front of Teatro Campesino’s first storefront headquarters, located on the corner of Seventh and Ellington in Delano’s westside. César Chávez agreed to let the performers have a separate office as they were also active in the farmworker movement. Beto Reyes, Eduardo “El Pirata” Del Rio, Roberto Román, Bob Fischer, Luis Valdez, Roy Valdez (no relation to Luis), Agustín Lira, and Felipe Cantú appeared in the photos. They were all founders of El Teatro Campesino in Delano. Daniel Valdez, brother of Luis Valdez, is not in these pictures. 

Luis Valdez speaking at CSUN, 2023


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