In celebration of the opening of El Teatro Campesino’s archives, UCSB had the privilege of hosting a lecture last night by renowned playwright Luis Valdez.
Valdez, El Teatro Campesino founder and artistic director, addressed a crowd of over 70 students and faculty at last night’s lecture — a part of the Multicultural Center’s Diversity Lecture Series. Having worked with prominent historical figures like Cesar Chavez, Valdez used his appearance at USCB to provide some translation to his rich life experience, from his times as a migrant worker to his establishment of El Teatro Campesino, or the farm workers’ theater.
According to Sal Güereña, California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives director for Davidson Library, Valdez’s visit is of the utmost importance given that the library’s archives have been closed to the public for the past 20 years.
“Being the archivists for El Teatro Campesino, it was our dream to have Luis Valdez return to UCSB,” Güereña said. “It is vitally important to use the material to enlighten, inform and seek new meaning.”
The conference opened with a panel discussion featuring Jorge Huerta, a UCSB alumnus director and Chicano studies scholar, and Diane Rodriguez, former El Teatro Campesino member and current Center Theatre Group associate producer. The two discussed their work in the field of Chicano theater and its transformation since the founding of El Teatro Campesino.
“Both Diane and I are here today because we saw Teatro Campesino in our youth,” Huerta said. “I had never seen our people onstage, speaking our language, our idioms. Even though I was never a farm worker, I could relate.”
For his part, Valdez gave a lecture titled “Up From the Roots: The Flowering of El Teatro Campesino.” He spoke of his first experience with theater. Valdez said his family was evicted the week before the opening of his play, striking a hole in his heart which has since contributed to his creative process.
Valdez concluded with an inspirational speech encouraging students and staff alike to remember their indigenous past as Americans and express this heritage through new theatrical works.
“The world is there for you to remake it,” Valdez said. “America, find your heart and you will flower and be reborn into the cosmos.”