Luis Valdez inspires theater students to overcome racial discrimination

By Luis Diaz

Luis Valdez and Jorge Huerta spotlighted the significance of Chicano theater experiences and its importance to past and budding Latino artists.

Mediated by East Los Angeles College theater faculty member Cristina Frias, the celebration of Luis Valdez’ “Theater of the Sphere: The Vibrant Being” is part of the Town Hall Series which covered racial equity and social justice. 

The event was held on Thursday, in the S2 recital hall. The event was focused on giving ELAC students information on how Chicano theater  works and the dedication to be successful in the theater industry.

Alongside Valdez, Jorge Huerta a theater scholar and the chancellor’s associate’s endowed chair at the University of San Diego was invited. 

Valdez said he had a humble youth growing up. His love for theater emerged when he attended a school in Stratford, California. There he learned how to make Papier-mâché, which ignited his passion for puppets and commenced to organize theater plays later down the line.

Jorge Huerta’s inspiration is Valdez’ creation, El Teatro Campesino, which was created in 1965 and is a Chicano theater company in California. 

The purpose of El Teatro Campesino is to create popular art with 21st century tools to present a more accurate depiction of human history.  It focuses on encouraging young women and men of the new generation to take control of their own destiny. 

“In 1968, as a high school drama teacher, I saw El Teatro Campesino and it inspired me. I would not be here if it wasn’t for him (Valdez) and the collaboration we have done. He  has changed the world, we have changed the world,” Huerta said. 

Valdez explains how the Mayans and the Aztecs viewed life and where he got the inspiration to start up El Teatro Campesino. 

“We haven’t been in front of the camera but we have been there behind the scenes, creating equal opportunity for all the students that face racial differences,” Valdez said. 

Huerta specializes in Chicano and Latin American theater. Based on the inspiration from El Teatro Campesino, he decided to start El Teatro de la Esperanza. 

In 1989 he also founded Teatro Máscara Mágica. The mission for Teatro Máscara Mágica is to promote multicultural theater going experiences, to provide professional experiences and opportunities to underrepresented communities. 

“We have paved the way for the future generations to have resources in the arts. Students will feel supported with what me and Luis have done. We haven’t been out there but we have been working from the other side to have good resources for the future of the arts,” Huerta said. 

The panel did a question and answer segment at the end of the event. A student asked the panel how they could express their intention to go into the arts.

“How do I tell my parents that I want to do arts in a Latino household? 

“Parents don’t see that as a stable career. They think it’s a waste of time,” Kevin Delgado, ELAC student said. 

“At the end, you should be doing it for yourself is what matters the most. Your parents already paved their future and now it’s time to do it for yourself, no one else” said Valdez.

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