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Luis Valdez: 1940—: Playwright, Director, Writer, Actor, Teacher Biography

El Teatro Campesino, La Bamba, Back To "the Farmworker Question"

Acknowledged as the "godfather of Chicano theater," Luis Valdez is the founder and artistic director of El Teatro Campesino, which translates to The Farmworkers Theater. Started in 1965, Valdez has led the theater company to international acclaim and numerous awards. The author and director of numerous plays, Valdez has also written and directed two films: Zoot Suit, based on his play of the same name and La Bamba, the 1987 hit movie based on the life of the Mexican-American rock star, Ritchie Valens. It's his work with El Teatro Campesino, however, and his dedication to advancing the role of the arts in people's lives that sets Valdez apart from his contemporaries. "If you want to understand modern Latino theater, you have to know that Luis was the start," Sean San Jose of San Fran-cicso's Campo Santo Theater Company told Karen D'Souza of the San Jose Mercury News. "Everything that came after him was informed by him."

Born Luis Miguel Valdez on June 26, 1940 in Delano, California, Valdez was raised in the agricultural labor camps around California where his parents worked in the fields, picking what ever crop was in season. It was a small role in an elementary school play and seeing his parents and those like them work the long, grueling hours for little pay that moved Valdez to use the theater to shed light on the Latino experience. "I took what I most feared, the thing I was most ashamed of, and turned it into something I could write about," he told students at San Diego State Universtiy in 2000.

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