Tag Archives: Luis Valdez

Happy Independence Day, United States of America!

On July 4, 1776, the United States of America declared themselves free from Great Britain. Thanks to its diverse population, the United States is one of the world’s great superpowers. And, by 2050, some scholars project it will boast the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. Here’s a look, by region, at some of America’s great Latino writers.

LuisValdezCalifornia: Luiz Valdez, right, the father of Latino theater and playwright of “Zoot Suit,” began presenting plays during the Delano farmworkers strike. The plight of farmworkers in California have been the subject of books by Helena María Viramontes and Pam Muñoz Ryan. Other Californians include Gustavo Arellano, Margarita Engle, Alex Espinoza, Reyna Grande, Gilbert Hernandez, Lorraine López, Luis J. Rodriguez, Michele Serros, Gary Soto, Héctor Tobar and Victor Villaseñor.

Rudulfo AnayaNew Mexico: Native son Rudolfo Anaya, left, considered the father of Chicano literature, has set his novels, including his beloved Bless Me Ultima and Sonny Baca mysteries, in this state. The state also served as the setting for novels by Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez and Alisa Valdes.

esmeralda_santiago_163x179_1Puerto Rico: The Caribbean island joined the United States in 1898. Esmeralda Santiago, right, wrote about her personal history in When I Was Puerto Rican and the island’s history in the novel Conquistadora. Other authors of Puerto Rican heritage include Lyn DiIorio, Sarah McCoy, Piri Thomas, Justin Torres and Willliam Carlos Williams.

Rolando HinojosaTexas: Life on the border has served as fodder for books by Rolando Hinojosa,  left, of the Rio Grande Valley, and Sergio Troncoso of El Paso. Sandra Cisneros, originally from Chicago, set her books Woman Hollering Creek and Have You Seen Marie? in this state. Other Tejanos include Dagoberto Gilb, Manuel Gonzales, Diana López and Gwendolyn Zepeda.

JunotDiazThe country’s most prestigious literary award, the Pulitzer Prize, has been given to Cuban-American Oscar Hijuelos and Dominican-American Junot Díaz, right, in the fiction category; Cuban-American Nilo Cruz and Quiara Alegría Hudes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, in drama; and numerous journalists. Eduardo Lalo won the 2013 International Rómulo Gallegos Prize for Fiction, becoming the first American to win one of Latin America’s most prestigious literary awards. The Pura Belpré Award, given by the American Library Association, honors books written for young readers.

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Labor Day literature: The farmworkers movement in print

Americans will celebrate workers this Labor Day weekend. Two of the Latino community’s most prominent figures – César Chávez and Dolores Huerta – led the farmworkers movement in the 1960s, demanding better conditions for the workers who picked grapes in California. The movement not only had an impact on workers’ rights, but on Latino literature as well.

Here’s a look at some books about Chávez and Huerta, a couple of novels that portray the life of farmworkers, and the story of how the movement gave birth to one of the Hispanic community’s most prominent theaters:

For children: Children can learn about the movement in Side by Side: The Story of Dolores Huerta and César Chávez by Monica Brown, Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez by Kathleen Krull and Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, by Sarah Warren.

For adults: The Words of César Chávez is a book of Chávez’s speeches and writings. It was included in the Library of Congress exhibit, The Books That Shaped America. Delano: The Story of the California Grape Strike, by John Gregory Dunne and Ilan Stavans, is a comprehensive look at the strike, while Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa by Jacques Levy focuses on Chávez. (A film of Chávez’s life is being made into a movie starring Diego Luna, according to The Los Angeles Times.) The Fight in the Fields by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval is the companion to the 1997 PBS documentary of the same title.

Fiction: Two of Latino literature’s most acclaimed novels focus on the plight of farmworkers. The 2000 young adult novel Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan depicts a teenager working the fields in the 1920s. The 1996 novel Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes tells the story of California farmworkers through the eyes of a 13-year-old worker.

Theater: During the Delano Grape Strike, Luis Valdez began presenting plays on flatbed trucks and union halls. He eventually founded El Teatro Campensino, and went on to write the play and the movie Zoot Suit and the movie La Bamba. He recently talked about his theater’s roots to AARP VIVA radio. (The program is in Spanish.)

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The Hispanic Reader is one year old today!

It’s The Hispanic Reader’s one-year anniversary! Since my first post, I’ve talked to eight authors, marked 18 writers’ birthdays, reviewed 37 books and written 117 posts. To celebrate, I’m giving you a couple of presents.

First, I created a Features Index that includes links to those author interviews and profiles; lists of books for special occasions (from Christmas to quinceañeras); and features about Latino literature, such as a look at writers who have won the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes. (I already have an index of book reviews.)

Second, I’ve created a trivia quiz about Latino literature from my posts and book reviews in the past year. (You can find more information about the answers below the quiz.) Good luck and have fun!

1. The answer is D. In the 2001 movie, the flighty Sara (Kate Beckinsale) writes her name and phone number in a copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and tells Jonathan (John Cusack), who she just met, that if their love is meant to be, he will find that copy in a bookstore. Appropriate book since Cholera is about a man who waits 50 years for the woman he loves.

2. The answer is A. Although he is considered one of the top storytellers in Latino literature, Borges never won the Nobel. Only 12 Latinos have, including Paz, Saramago and Vargas Llosa. But Borges did get a Google doodle on his birthday.

3. The answer is B. Luis Valdez began directing plays on a flatbed truck and union halls during the Delano Grape Strike of the 1960s. His theater company is aptly named El Teatro Campesino. Considered the father of Latino theater, he wrote the play Zoot Suit and the directed the movie version and La Bamba.

4. The answer is C. In Il Postino, Pablo Neruda helps an Italian postal carrier woo his love. The 1994 film, based on an Antonio Skarmeta book, earned a Best Picture nomination. The other answers were books – by Laura Esquivel, Isabel Allende and Carlos Fuentes – that also were made into movies.

5. The answer is B. Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chávez takes place in the tiny fictional town of Cabritoville, near El Paso.

6. The answer is B. Malín Alegría dons the elaborate dress in honor of her book Estrelle’s Quinceañera, one of many books about the popular Hispanic tradition. Veronica Chambers wrote the Magdalena and Marisol books; Diana López penned Choke; and Lorraine López authored The Realm of Hungry Spirits.

7. The answer is D. Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig is considered one of the most famous works in Latino literature of the last 50 years.

8. The answer is A. Hanks read Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in the classic comedy caper.

9. The answer is D. Quiara Alegría Hudes won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2012 for her play, Water by the Spoonful. Hudes, who also wrote 26 Miles and co-wrote the Tony-winner In the Heights, is one of the few Latinos to win the American award for literary arts and journalism. Although they have not won the Pulitzer, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros and Cristina García have written novels that have received strong critical acclaim.

10. The answer is C. Pablo Neruda knew Gabriela Mistral when he was growing up in Temuco, Chile. Fuentes and Paz are from Mexico. Allende is from Chile, but a generation younger than Neruda. Her uncle, President Salvador Allende, was friends with Neruda, a relationship depicted in Roberto Ampuero’s The Neruda Case.

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Happy birthday, Luis Valdez!

Luis Valdez was born June 26 in 1940. He is regarded as the father of Latino theater and the playwright of perhaps the most famous Latino play of all time – Zoot Suit.

A former migrant worker, the California-raised Valdez was inspired to go into theater after a teacher cast him in a school play, according to the San Jose Mercury News. He didn’t perform in the production, but the experience led him to study drama at San Jose State University.

In the 1960s, he marched with United Farm Workers leader César Chávez. He founded El Teatro Campesino – with shows performed on flatbed trucks and union halls during the Delano Grape Strike.

The company later moved to San Juan Bautista, Calif. In 1977, the theater performed Zoot Suit, which was inspired by the 1940s riots in Los Angeles. The play was a smash – going on to Broadway in 1979 and becoming a movie, which Valdez directed, in 1981.

Valdez also directed the 1987 movie La Bamba, about music great Ritchie Valens. His theater company continues to produce plays today. He recently talked about his career in this radio interview.

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