Things That Matter

The Father Of Chicano Theater Just Received This Prestigious Honor From President Obama

This is Luis Valdez. At 76 years of age, Valdez has devoted his career to advancing Latino culture through the arts.

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CREDIT: SJSU / INSTAGRAM

You can call him “The Father of Chicano Theater.”

Though you might not recognize his name, chances are that you’re very familiar with Valdez’s most well-known works: “La Bamba” and “Zoot Suit.”

Credit: Columbia Pictures and Universal
CREDIT: Credit: Columbia Pictures and Universal

The play “Zoot Suit” debuted in 1978 in Los Angeles to critical acclaim. By 1979, the play was brought to Broadway, making Valdez the first Chicano writer-director to have such an honor.

Credit: Universal
CREDIT: Credit: Universal

Three years later, Valdez directed a film adaptation of the play which starred Edward James Olmos as “El Pachuco.”

CREDIT: Universal Movies / YOUTUBE

With a story that revolved around the Sleepy Lagoon murder and the Zoot Suit Riots, the play (and movie) gave audiences a glimpse into the prejudice Mexican-Americans faced in Los Angeles during the 1940s.

Credit: MCA Records
CREDIT: Credit: MCA Records

“With their flashy ensembles, distinct slang, extra cash, and rebellious attitude,” explains Catherine Ramirez, “pachucos and pachucas participated in a spectacular subculture and threatened the social order by visibly occupying public spaces.” As a result of their flashy zoot suits, Mexican-Americans faced daily harassment from the police, who felt the clothes were unpatriotic. “Zoot Suit” would go on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy.

Valdez’s next big success was “La Bamba,” the beloved Ritchie Valens biopic. The movie cemented Valdez’s reputation as a champion of Chicano culture.

CREDIT: LA BAMBA / COLUMBIA PICTURES

Thanks to the amazing performances of Esai Morales and Lou Diamond Phillips, “La Bamba” was able to connect with audiences from all backgrounds.

The soundtrack to “La Bamba” was a massive success as well, going multi-platinum during its run.

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CREDIT: GET IMPORT CDS / EBAY

If you grew up in the ’80s, this album was probably burned into your ear drums by your parents.

Though “La Bamba” and “Zoot Suit” were most people’s introduction to his work, Valdez had already been hard at work for many decades.

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CREDIT: KTEHTV / INSTAGRAM

In 1961, Valdez won a playwriting contest for a one-act play he wrote while at San Jose State University. He followed this achievement by producing his first full-length play, “The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa,” which premiered at SJSU in 1964.

After college, Valdez turned his focus to a project that could help the Latino community. In 1965, that project became El Teatro Campesino, a theatre troupe made up of farmworkers that wrote and starred in plays about their daily lives.

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CREDIT: Pedro Pablo Celedón / YOUTUBE

“When I went to school,” Luis wrote, “I discovered that there were no books, no stories dealing with the history of Latinos in the United States. […] I wanted to do something about it, and so I ended up writing plays about my own people, writing plays about our culture, writing plays about our history.”

The plays covered serious topics that affected farmworkers, but they employed a healthy amount of humor to help the morale of the workers and their families.

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CREDIT: SJSU / YOUTUBE

Humor also worked because, as Luis explains, “…one of the great things El Teatro did was it defused that type of violence because we were out there performing. They can’t attack the circus; you don’t attack the clown.”

Luis’s connection to farmworkers stemmed from his days working the fields and seeing the conditions they worked in. Valdez never stopped fighting for the rights of his friends and fellow workers.

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CREDIT: SJSU / YOUTUBE

“My early experience in the field,” wrote Valdez, “picking cotton for such low wages, touring the migrant labor camps, living in those miserable conditions, going into town and being looked at strangely — ‘here come the Mexicans.’ And this in a place where I’d been born. What the hell was going on?”

By 1971, Valdez’s efforts led to the creation of an actual theater in San Juan Bautista.

A photo posted by @maldonado_si (@maldonado_si) on

CREDIT: MALDONADO SI / INSTAGRAM

Valdez credits Cesar Chavez as one of the creators of the theater. “All of this came together and gelled for me when I met César Chávez […] I not only admired what he was, I followed him, and so in 1965, I went back to Delano, California, where I was born, and I pitched him the idea for a farm workers’ theater.”

Throughout his life, Luis Valdez’s inspirational story has motivated people to follow in his footsteps. Kinan Valdez, Luis’ son, is doing his part to spread his father’s message.

@elteatrocampesino's founder #LuisValdez with #PopolVuh director #KinanValdez #ctgcommunity

A photo posted by Grand Park (@grandpark_la) on

CREDIT: GRANDPARK LA / INSTAGRAM

In 2015, Kinan directed the San Jose State University stage production of “Zoot Suit.” It was the first time the play had been performed at his father’s alma mater.

We’re excited to see Luis Valdez receive the National Medal of Arts from President Obama, who is a reflection of how much society has changed thanks to the efforts of people like Valdez.

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CREDIT: I AM THEATRE / YOUTUBE

“I’m so happy this happened before Obama’s term is over—this is one of his last official functions,” Valdez told Free Lance. “He’s awarded lot of medals to a lot of significant artists, and it’s important to be in this group.”


READ: Remember The Two Undocumented Valedictorians? NPR Has Their Story

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All About Michelle Obama’s ‘Vote’ Necklace And Where To Get It

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All About Michelle Obama’s ‘Vote’ Necklace And Where To Get It

Handout / Handout

There’s no denying that Michelle Obama wowed viewers when she appeared at the Democratic National Convention earlier this week. The former First Lady delivered a pointed and compelling speech about the future of our country and the importance of voting and did so while donning perhaps one of the chicest outfits of the decade paired with hoop earrings and a sweet necklace that spelled out the word “VOTE.”

While there’s a lot to take away from Obama’s message, particularly because our lives literally depend on it, fans haven’t been able to keep their eyes off of Obama’s “vote” necklace.

Obama’s necklace was designed by Chari Cuthbert for her line BYCHARI as part of her boutique jewelry line which is based in Los Angeles.

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You all know me by now. You know that I tell you exactly what I’m feeling, and that I’m no fan of politics. But you also know how much I love this country and how much I care about all our children. And right now, I’m deeply troubled by what our kids are witnessing—a nation that’s underperforming not just on matters of policy, but on matters of character. In our hearts, we know that so much of what’s happening is just not right. It’s not who we want to be. And if we want any chance to end the chaos, the division, and the nastiness; if we want to keep alive the possibility of progress on the issues we hold dear, we’ve got to elect @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris like our lives depend on it. Joe Biden is a profoundly decent man, guided by his faith. He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic, and lead a country. Kamala Harris is a dedicated public servant who has committed her life to fighting for those who can use a hand up. Together, they will listen. They will tell the truth and trust science. And they will make smart plans and manage a good team. Because Joe Biden has served this nation without ever losing sight of who he is, but even more than that, he’s never lost sight of who we are—all of us. And he will channel that same grit and compassion to pick us up, help us heal, and guide us forward. To everyone who has given so much this summer to awaken our consciences and shout out for justice—I could not be more proud of you. Keep it up. Because progress isn’t an either/or proposition. If we want to move forward, we’ve got to march. We’ve got to kneel. We’ve got to protest. And we’ve got to vote—and make sure everyone we know does, too. So vote early, in-person if you can. Request your mail-in ballots right now—tonight—and send them back immediately, and follow up to make sure they were received. And when Election Day comes, get prepared to wait in line overnight if you have to. Because if we want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, if we want to realize the progress that we seek, we’ve got to do everything we can to elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.

A post shared by Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on

The Black designer has produced and designed custom pieces since 2012 and sold her designs via her website, word of mouth, social media, and a few influencers. According to Cuthbert, her business was already doing well pretty recently but sales for her designs skyrocketed this week thanks to a visual endorsement from Obama at the Democratic Convention. Cuthbert told CNN that 12 hours after Obama’s address on Monday night, almost 2,000 orders for her VOTE necklace came rolling in.

The necklace sells for $295.

“I was at my office, and I just sat there as my phone was going crazy, and I started to cry,” Cuthbert told CNN.

Obama’s stylist has said that the vote necklace inspired the writer’s entire look for the evening.

Meredith Koop who has worked as a stylist for Obama for the last decade told CNN, “I built all of the outfit options I offered to Obama around the necklace. When I commissioned it, I knew it had to be the centerpiece When the speech started, you had to squint a little to read it. I love that. It pulled the viewer in.”

The VOTE necklace was crafted for Obama earlier this summer in July when Koop messaged Cuthbert on Instagram. The designer and stylist had never met or worked with Koop but found herself impressed by Cuthbert’s designs on social platforms like Instagram. Of course, this isn’t the first time Cuthbert has created the VOTE necklace. In 2016, she made a small supply of the necklaces for herself and friends. In 2018 she promoted the necklaces once again to raise awareness about the primaries.

“I try to keep politics and business separate,” Cuthbert told CNN, “But in these times, with what’s happening in the world, I felt like I needed to use my platform. So when Meredith reached out we knew how important it was to do this, and do it now.”

Cuthbert is a Black business owner who has been waiting for a break for her small business for some time.

Like millions of small business owners and entrepreneurs, she’s worked hard to pursue her dreams.

“I reached out to friends in the jewelry industry last night and this morning and have just said, ‘Um, I’m going to need some help,’ in the best possible sense,” Cuthbert explains. “This is it. This is the dream come true.”

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Barack Obama Added Latin Music Stars To His Annual List Of Things He Enjoyed In 2019

Entertainment

Barack Obama Added Latin Music Stars To His Annual List Of Things He Enjoyed In 2019

barackobama / Instagram

President Obama has become a strong and lasting pop culture figure. He is often referenced in tv shows. movies, late-night talk shows, and a myriad of other moments. He has even become a tastemaker in some pop culture rounds. Namely, Obama releases an annual list of favorite things in entertainment and pop culture. It is a list that people have come to expect and look forward to as Obama has often highlighted the most influential people of the year. This year’s list is no different and there were some notable Latino additions to the list that people definitely paid attention to.

Former President Barack Obama released his culture list of 2019, and he included some of our favorite Latino creatives. 

Credit: @barackobama / Twitter

Obama’s recommendation lists have been a part of our lives since he began his presidency. Every year, he releases a list of his favorite books, music, and movies, and we’re always so excited because he typically is into things that we’re into as well. Not just that, but he also turns us onto new creatives because if he’s into it, we know for a fact it’s good. 

Oh, the music front, Obama did not disappoint. His favorite music of 2019 surprised many because while we know he has impeccable taste, we didn’t realize he could get down like that. 

For starters, in 2019, Obama listened to “Baila Baila Baila” by Ozuna featuring Daddy Yankee, J Balvin, Farruko, Anuel AA. 


We need a second to absorb this awesomeness. Not only does Obama give a list of entertainment to make your year better, he included one of the Latin music’s biggest bops of the year.

People could not get over the fact that Obama gets down to Ozuna just like we do. 

Credit: @bianncaaaa_ / Twitter

We truly want to know who put Obama onto Ozuna. Was it his kids? Was it a friend? Maybe it was Michelle! We know she does love to dance. Way to go, Obama.

We see Obama in a whole new light now. 

He was cool before, but now it’s on another level. We really love seeing the things that Obama enjoys.

Obama also listened to Angelica Garcia’s “Jícama”

The bilingual singer who’s based in Richmond, Virginia but was born in Cali and is of Mexican and Salvadoran descent got the break of a lifetime by getting a shoutout by the former president.

For those of you who don’t know her, now you know. 

Credit: @als_baretoes / Twitter

Garcia tweeted, “I am tearing up right now. My grandma has kept your picture on her piano for 5 years. Thank you for listening @BarackObama.” We’re tearing up now too!

Like the rest of the world, Obama could not resist Rosalía’s “Con Altura.”


Rosalía was undeniable on the culture hit list for 2019 and there’s no way Obama could avoid her. She was everywhere with her new music this year.

Obama surprised many with his choices this year, but his Latin music artist picks blew us away. 

Credit: @nathalyHenriq11 / Twitter

We stan Obama for life!

Now, on the movie front, Obama didn’t choose any Latin films. We know there were slim pickings, but we guess he didn’t watch “Knock Down the House” — the documentary about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rise to Congress. Or “The Infiltrators” another powerful documentary about what it’s like to be detained by ICE. Perhaps that last film hits too close to home for the former president. 

As for books, Obama chose some incredible reads, including Valeria Luiselli’s “Lost Children Archive.”

Credit: @crimmigration / Twitter

The Mexican writer tweeted that she was speechless over being on Obama’s list. She tweeted, “Happy, though of course bewildered, that @BarackObama read Lost Children Archive. Curious about what, in those pages, spoke to him, and wondering what thoughts left an echo.” She also added that she wants Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to read her next book! “And now here’s a wish for 2020: that @AOC reads Tell Me How It Ends and pushes for some major reforms!” It’s all about envisioning to bring it to light!

Okay, now that we know Obama gets down as we do, we’re going to play some Ozuna now. 

Thanks, Mr. Obama for reminding us why we love you and more importantly why we miss you even more!

READ: More Than 360,000 People Have Signed A Petition Calling For Trump Tower’s Address To Be ‘President Barack H. Obama Avenue’

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