There is a South African Proverb that states ‘Until lions write books, history will always glorify the hunter’. In his play ‘Los Vendidos’, Luis Valdez tries to become a lion and let the voice of Chicano history be heard. Luis Valdez does this in a satirical way by presenting the views and stereotypes that many American’s have had and continue to have, about Chicano’s in the form of a shop where Chicano ‘model / robots ‘ are sold. By presenting each Chicano as a robot and stereotype, Luis Valdez tries to ears of the ‘models’ of Chicano’s that people have in their heads and tries to point out that there is a strong Chicano culture and a rich history that has been ignored by American’s for years. ‘Los Vendidos’ is a challenge to all people but especially American’s to think about why these stereotypes are so known in culture and the role that American culture has played in creating and maintaining these stereotypes. One of the first things that Ms.
Jimanez, the American woman ‘buying’ a Chicano model / robot , looks at is the skin color. When the salesman, Mr. Sancho shows her the Indian model she says that he is too dark. She specifies that she is looking for a lighter shade of skin color, or as she says ‘perhaps beige’. Her looking for a lighter shade of Mexican is a representation of what was known as the process of Americanization. Americanization was defined ‘as the securing through instruction such reactions on the part of non-Americans that they will accept and practice those ideals, customs, methods of living, skills and knowledge that have come to be accepted as representative of the best in American life…
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.’ For many people there was a belief that the darkness of a person’s skin had a direct correlation with their intelligence as well as their level of ability and intelligence. If you had darker skin you were assumed to be lazy and unintelligent. This special kind of racism known as, had been prevalent among Anglo-Americans since before the eighteenth century. In his article The Spanish Frontier in North America, David Weber describes what came to be known as the black legend, or la negro, as the view that the ‘Spaniards were unusually cruel, avaricious, treacherous, fanatical, superstitious, cowardly, corrupt, decadent, indolent and authoritarian… .’ All of these characteristics were based on skin color. Why would explain why so many many Mexican-American teens ‘placed their faith in the application of Cover Girl’s bleaching cream’ as their ticket to acceptance in the new society they were part of yet very much apart from? Another issue that Luis Valdez discusses in ‘Los Vendidos’ is the distinction made between being Mexican and being Mexican-American.
A certain model in the store is described as being made in Mexico. Ms. Jimanez passes on this model because since the model was made in Mexico it is obviously not as good as models that would be made in the United States. To appease his client, Mr. Sancho points out another model that is the ‘apex of American engineering’. This distinction between Mexican and American had another level to it as well.
There were also those that considered themselves Mexican-American. This distinction was made by describing the two groups as Mexicano’s de Adentro (the inside) and Mexicano’s de A fuera (the outside).
The group that considered themselves Mexicano’s de Adentro were trying to separate themselves from the new immigrants and gain some status in the Anglo world by looking down at the new immigrants. This tactic however, did not seem to be very effective as their was a tendency on the part of Anglo’s to homogenize all Chicano’s. The immigrants that had been recruited by Anglo corporations to come and work in the fields worked along side Mexican-Americans who considered the immigrants outsiders. This issue of citizenship is one of the most important issues that ‘Los Vendidos’ deals with because it shows the prejudice that existed not only from the Anglo point of view but from the Mexicano’s de Adentro point of view as well.
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Anglo’s were prejudiced towards the group they labeled as ‘Mexican’s’ and then there was the animosity that existed between those that considered themselves Mexican’s and those that considered themselves Mexican-Americans. The Mexicano’s de Adentro no longer looked upon ‘… Mexico… as their home land. They have been born in the United Sates and America is their country.’ The sudden large-scale immigration from Mexico to the United States after 1910 ‘was the result of the declining economic situation in Mexico coinciding and with the improving fortunes of the American Southwest’. Immigrants came to America in search of a better life that was promised to them by the recruiters who came to the border in search of cheap labor.
They came and worked the fields and were treated more like animals or slaves rather than human beings with rights. The family that Mr. Sancho describes as a deal because you get ‘the whole family for the price of one’ represents this group in ‘Los Vendidos’. Although the Mexican laborer was seen as indispensable to the American companies that employed them they were still treated poorly; ‘Mexican’s lived in the poorest houses in the neighborhood’.
This trend was not uncommon and the communities that Mexican’s lived in became what is now known as barrios. Young people, sick of the unfair treatment started to rebel by wearing zoo t suits and forming their own Chicano culture. Instead of forming to the ideals and expected behaviors of a society that no matter how hard they tried would not accept them, they rejected those ideals and formed their own culture with a built in support system. What eventually came to be known as the Zoot Suit riots, occurred during World War II, in a time where America was extremely patriotic and united as a nation.
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The young pacheco culture was seen as a slap in the face to the patriotic Americans who were going off to war and dying for their country. Large numbers of Chicano men were also going off to war and showing that they loved America and were willing to die for her, where another large part of the Chicano population were protesting against America in their own way. Their protest was expressed by young Chicano men wearing zoo t suits. Zoot suits were seen as a slap to the face for America because they were brightly colored and used a lot of material in a time where American’s were trying to save material could go to the war effort. This divide within Chicano culture was represented by ‘the chino shirt that were the uniforms of patriotism, whereas a zoo t suit was a deliberate and public way of flouting the regulations of rationing.’ The that was so prevalent in American culture that characterized the zoo t suitors as violent and dangerous led to brutality at the hands of police officers and gangs of Anglo’s. Anglo’s were acting on the belief that this ‘violent urge’ of all Chicano’s was a biological element.
The Anglo’s believed that ‘ this Mexican element… knows and feels a desire to use a knife or some other weapon. What Anglo’s did not take into account is where the blame lies for the anger, which they interpreted as a desire to kill, that the Chicano population felt came from. The unfair educational system, low wages a poverty and racism that Chicano’s were forced to deal with on a daily basis, from the public as well as the government, was of course not a cause of this anger. Ms. Jimanez is shocked when Mr.
Sancho shows her the zoo t suit model because he is doing illegal drugs and using horrible language. Ms. Jimanez asks where he learned to speak that way and the answer is form Anglo’s and their school and work systems. Luis Valdez essentially places the blame at the feet of the American customer who then walks away from the model, the same way that the American system walked away from the Chicano population they had taken land from and exploited for work. This unfair treatment and abuse, however, turned out to become a unifying force among Chicano’s, especially farm workers. They started to organize strikes and form organizations such as LULA C, URW, AMN A, MALDEN and La Raza U nida.
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These organizations called for boycotts of companies that did not pay enough and tried to unite against the unfair conditions that had been living in and with for far too many years. The objective of many of these organizations was ‘to be a group of active crusaders for social justice-Chicano style… .’ The 1960’s saw the creation of Aztlan, or the creation of a new homeland where the Aztecs originated from somewhere in the southwest. The creation of Aztlan gave Chicano’s a long awaited homeland and put a positive spin on Chicano identity and nationalism. To outsiders, otherwise known as Anglo’s, it looked as though Chicano’s were turning their back on America, but for thousands of Chicano’s it not only meant they were here, they were home and finally making themselves known.
This movement called for young Chicano’s to unite and fight for their rights. For the Chicano movement the 1960’s represented a coming together amongst Chicano’s as well as the beginning of a union with other organizations fighting for equal rights, such as Dr. Martin Luther King and his followers. In the end of ‘Los Vendidos’ it turns out that Mr. Sancho is actually the robot and all the ‘robots / models ‘ are the ‘real’ people. They were all playing roles to try and sell a Mexican to Ms.
Jimanez. This is a brilliant idea on the part of Luis Valdez because it tackles the stereotype of Chicano’s merely being puppets set up in ‘shops’ waiting to be ‘bought’ by Americans. ‘Los Vendidos’ portrays the stereotypes and prejudices of Anglo’s by presenting each stereotype as a ‘model’ of how Americans viewed Chicano’s and in the last case, how Mexican-American’s should be. The final ‘model’ that is shown and bought by Ms.
Jimanez is Eric. Eric is a very polite gentleman who speaks fluent English and can give political speeches that are not as radical as the ones that were given in the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Eric’s skin, which is a light brown, is a way of depicting the fact that Chicano’s are becoming more and more Americanized and in many ways serves as a warning to future generations of Chicano’s to not Americanize themselves to the point where they lose their heritage. In this sense, Luis Valdez and the Teatro Compe sina, become lions in a sense and they re-write history.
Drama Reflection on "Los Vendidos" by Luis Valdez "Los Vendidos" is a wonderful light-hearted play by Luis Valdez, which he creates using, satire, irony ... what they want. Throughout the play Valdez uses a comedic air to portray the stereotypes of Mexican Americans that have been created ... denied her heritage and pretends to be ignorant to the Chicano ways while at the same time is unable to escape ...
They show their audience some of the stereotypes and that has up until now, been Chicano history. In doing so Luis Valdez presents the other view and challenges people to think about where, why, who, when and how these stereotypes came to be. ‘Los Vendidos’ challenges the notion of the Anglo-Europeans’ being the only ones that have written history, and by doing so lets the audience know that what has been presented to them thus far is not the real Chicano history. The real Chicano history must come from the lions themselves. It is in this way that Luis Valdez himself rewrites Chicano history and becomes a lion facing his hunters.