Biography of Luis Valdez

Luis Valdez is an American playwright and director who is known for writing about Chicano characters. He is perhaps best known for his play Zoot Suit, about the Zoot Suit riots, as well as his formation of El Teatro Campesino and his film La Bamba.

Valdez was born to Mexican migrant farmworkers in Delano, California, and took an early interest in theater. After attending San Jose State University on a math and physics scholarship, Valdez studied agitprop theatre, guerrilla theatre and commedia dell'arte at the San Francisco Mime Troupe, before forming a farmworker's theater troupe, El Teatro Campesino. He later formed TENAZ, the national Chicano theater organization, in Fresno.

The play that really brought Valdez mainstream attention was Zoot Suit, which opened in 1978 in Los Angeles and later transferred to Broadway. It tells the story of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial, as well as the 1943 Zoot Suit riots. In 1981, Valdez directed the film version of his play, which starred Daniel Valdez, Edward James Olmos, and Tyne Daly.

Valdez's breakthrough film was La Bamba, which came out in 1987, and tells the story of the Chicano rock-and-roll star Ritchie Valens. The film stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, and Joe Pantoliano, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Drama.

Study Guides on Works by Luis Valdez

The phrase "los vendidos" has two meanings when translated into English; "the sold ones", and "the sellouts". Neither translation speaks highly of the central characters in this one-act play by Chicano playwright Luis Valdez; the play takes a...

Zoot Suit was written by Luis Valdez, a Mexican-American playwright and director who is widely known as the father of Chicano theater. It weaves together the story of the Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trials with the Zoot Suit riots, both of which took...