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.

lv
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.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-2-07-37-pm
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.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-3-09-05-pm
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.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-2-58-23-pm
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.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-4-09-44-pm
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.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-4-12-45-pm
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.

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.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-3-57-13-pm
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

Like this story? Click on the share button below to send to your friends.

People Are Confused How Kevin Spacey Is Joyfully Singing ‘La Bamba’ In Spain After Sexual Assault Case Dropped

Entertainment

People Are Confused How Kevin Spacey Is Joyfully Singing ‘La Bamba’ In Spain After Sexual Assault Case Dropped

tunaderechosevilla / Instagram

Since Massachusetts prosecutors dropped criminal charges against Kevin Spacey for allegedly groping an 18-year-old busboy in Nantucket, Spacey has been doing some international travel. He performed a spoken-word poem in Rome about a boxer making a comeback, a blatant metaphor for what we imagine he hopes for his own acting career.

Then, Sunday night, band Tuna de Derecho de Sevilla shared several videos to their Instagram page of Spacey performing “La Bamba” with the band in the streets of Sevilla.

Apparently, Spacey was at a restaurant at La Plaza Nueva with friends when a member of the band approached him for a photo.

Credit: tunaderechosevilla / Instagram

It was 2 a.m., which, for Spaniards, is about the end of dinnertime and the beginning of a fun night. Band members told People that they went to the bar to sing for a pre-wedding party when they spotted Spacey. Band member Miguel Segura Cabellero told People, “I walked over to him and explained why we were there and asked if we could take a quick photo with him. He said ‘Yes, of course.’ To begin with, everybody was looking at him, but after a while everything became normal.”

At some point during the introduction, Spacey got up and started singing with the band.

Credit: tunaderechosevilla / Instagram

He picked up an instrument and starting strumming along to the tunes of The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” and “La Bamba.” A crowd started to form, and fans started to dance alongside Spacey as he strummed along, twisted and shouted, and enjoyed the spotlight for a few moments. The band reported that Spacey was at the bar with a few of his friends.

It seems like Spacey is having a grand ole time on his vacation from #MeToo.

Credit: tunaderechosevilla / Instagram

La Tuna Derecho de Sevilla posted several videos to their Instagram Sunday night, captioning the videos with “Buena noche que pasamos en compañía de Kevin Spacey 👏🏻🍺” In other words, ‘it’s a good night when spent in the company of Kevin Spacey.’ Chillingly, that has not been the case for Spacey’s victims.

But Spacey’s alleged bad behavior isn’t confined to American borders.

Credit: @DanB6398 / Twitter

London’s Metropolitan Police have questioned Spacey over six individual allegations of sexual assault starting as far back as 1996. Spacey worked in London as the artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theatre for over ten years. In an internal investigation, the theater found “20 personal testimonies of alleged inappropriate behavior” by the actor.

Spaniards are reportedly seeing Kevin Spacey clubbing in Madrid, and enjoying a true vacation from the bad press and recent criminal charges that were brought and dropped against him earlier this year.

CNN reports that District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said the case was dropped “due to the unavailability of the complaining witness.”

Credit: @tiffany_blewss / Twitter

Heather Unruh, a former Boston TV news anchor, alleged in November 2017 that Spacey groped her 18-year-old son at the bar he was working in Nantucket in 2016. A year later, charges were filed. In January 2019, Spacey pleaded not guilty. The victim told police that he was texting and sending Snpachat messages when Spacey reaching inside his pants and groped his genitals for a solid three minutes. The victim was a busboy at the bar and had approached Spacey for a photo together. He told police that he lied to Spacey and told him he was a 23-year-old college student when he was in fact 18-years-old. The two drank heavily together and then Spacey assaulted him. When Spacey went to use the bathroom, the victim fled.

The day the allegations broke, Spacey took to social media to share a video that he alleges was “in character” as Frank Underwood from “House of Cards.”

Credit: Kevin Spacey / YouTube

“Of course, some believed everything and have just been waiting with bated breath to hear me confess it all,” Spacey said in the video, allegedly in character as Frank Underwood. “They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true and that I got what I deserved. Wouldn’t that be easy if it was all so simple? Only you and I both know it’s never that simple, not in politics and not in life. I can promise you this: If I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn’t do.”

READ: Brock Turner’s Victim, Who Wrote Of Her Horrifying Rape By A Dumpster In An Impact Statement, Is Publishing A Book

People Went In On Will Smith Not Knowing The Words To ‘La Bamba’ And He Clapped Back

Entertainment

People Went In On Will Smith Not Knowing The Words To ‘La Bamba’ And He Clapped Back

willsmith / Instagram

Will Smith has no shame when it comes to Instagram. One minute he’s posting about his days as the Fresh Prince, and the next he’s giving his followers inspirational life lessons. But when he’s on vacation, he goes all out. By that we mean, he turns up the nerdy dad routine and delivers comedic moments that will make you cringe. Case in point, his recent vacation to the Cayman Islands and his live rendition of “La Bamba.”

Will Smith thought it would be funny to join the Pandemix steel drum band for their rendition of “La Bamba.”

As you can hear, it’s pretty terrible — but also kind of hilarious. He said it himself: “imagine that in my bad singing voice.”

Smith clearly didn’t know the words to this iconic Mexican folk song, or maybe he was just playing a joke on all of us. Of course people had to voice their opinions in the comments section.

In a follow-up Instagram post, Smith sang “La Bamba” again.

Smith started the video, in Spanish, saying, “Many of you wrote in the comments section that I didn’t know the words to ‘La Bamba.'” He then went in and sang the song at the top of his lungs.

Smith has been showing us his Spanish skills for years so this should no be a surprise.

Even though he’s not singing in Spanish in “Miami,” the entire track has Latin influences and the song includes the Spanish verse: “Bienvenidos a Miami.” Smith was reluctant to include the Spanish at first.

One of the producers told GQ, “It was my idea that the woman would say “Bienvenidos a Miami” which at the time Will was not in favor of as it might confuse non-Spanish speakers. It was Nas who finally convinced him.”

He’s spoken in Spanish on the red carpet.

You have to give the man credit for consistently speaking Spanish over the years with confidence.

And let’s not forget his collaboration with Bomba Estéreo at the Latin Grammy’s.

Keep up the Spanish practice, Will.

READ: Will Smith Came Out of a 10 Year Hiatus to Do a Song With Colombia’s Bomba Estereo

What do you think of Will’s Spanish singing abilities? Let us know by sharing this story and commenting below!