When it began in Delano, California in the 1960s, El Teatro Campesino held its performances in flatbed trucks and told the stories of migrant workers. Born on the Delano Grape Strike picket lines of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Union, the company made a name for itself by dramatizing and contextualizing the struggles of farmworkers – and more broadly of Chicanos in the U.S. – for wider audiences. It served as the cultural wing of the movement, using theater to fight injustice.
Today, as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, El Teatro Campesino is regarded as the nation’s preeminent Chicano/Latino theater company and its success should be celebrated and honored. Founder and artistic director Luis Valdez has not only garnered accolades for his work in the theater, he’s also impacted pop culture through his work in film (for example, Valdez’s plays La Bamba and Zoot Suit were later adapted into now iconic films).
This past weekend, El Teatro Campesino celebrated their anniversary in Los Angeles with a performance of their new play, Popol Vuh: Heart of Heaven, a story based on the Mayan creation myth with an L.A. twist. Held in Grand Park, Boyle Heights, community members performed alongside the theater group, showcasing local talent in three different languages: Spanish, English and Quiche. Families, homies, and communities came out to support and celebrate this achievement through entertainment.
El Teatro Campesino will officially kick off their celebrations on Dia de Los Muertos in San Bautista, California on October 30th until November 1st. To purchase tickets to the celebration and see what else is coming up for the company, check out their calendar here.