Los Vendidos Background

Los Vendidos Background

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 closer look at the stereotypes surrounding Latinos living in California in the late 1960s, and the way in which they are treated by the government at every level.

The play is set in a fictional store that sells various robotic models of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. The store is owned and operated by a man named Sancho. This is a clear jab at the "one size fits all" impression of both cultures that the playwright perceives the government to have at the time, and this is personified by the character of Mrs Jiminez, an employee of then Governor Ronald Reagan who wants to purchase a model that will appeal to lower income Mexican immigrants. Sancho shows her many different models that he brings to life by snapping his fingers. At the end of the play, the robotic models come alive and reveal that they are not robots at all, but real, living humans earning their living by pretending to be robotic images of themselves. The exception to this is Sancho himself; he is the robot.

Valdez wrote the play to bring awareness to stereotypes, having experienced the effects of these himself as a Mexican immigrant. The Sell-Outs are people who literally sell out their own culture and adapt to the American culture that they have immigrated into. Valdez views this as a huge problem, identifying with the Chicanos who wanted to keep their own culture and saw Mrs Jiminez as the sell-out, but other Chicano writers view Mrs Jiminez as the play's erstwhile hero, believing that their community should make some efforts to assimilate into their new nation.

Valdez is widely regarded as the father of Chicano theater and was one of the founding members of the Farmworkers' Theater, or El Teatro Campesion, a Chicano theater company based in California that performs plays in both English and Spanish. His influence on popular culture goes far beyond the stage, and he is best known for his movie La Bamba, which heralded Valdez' breakthrough into mainstream America. It was the story of Richie Valens, a Chicano rock and roll icon, and it debuted in 1987, an overwhelming box office and critical success.

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