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Director’s contribution to Chicano movement honored

By Youmi Chun

April 10, 2003 9:00 p.m.

Director and playwright Luis Valdez was honored with the UCLA
Cesar E. Chavez Spirit Award for 2003 on Wednesday evening.

An accomplished contributor to the Chicana/o movement, Valdez
was honored for his work in theater and film, which has advocated
Chicana/o rights through the years.

Founder of El Teatro Campesino, he is renowned for creating
“actos” ““ small theater skits ““ which
explore the struggle of farm workers and the greater Chicana/o
community.

In his acceptance speech, Valdez said the award indicated social
change in the Chicana/o movement.

“In spite of our obstacles, we’re able to make good
work, and feel better about our lives,” he said.

The UCLA Cesar E. Chavez Center for Interdisciplinary
Instruction in Chicana and Chicano Studies presents the award each
year to distinguished individuals who have kept the spirit of
Chavez alive.

Chavez was the founder of the National Farm Workers’
Association, and one of the most prominent leaders of organized
labor. He practiced non-violent strikes and pickets to promote
higher wages and better work conditions for farm workers.

Past recipients have included actor/activist Martin Sheen,
co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America Dolores Huerta and
Grammy-winning musician Carlos Santana.

Reynaldo Macias, chair for the Chavez Center, said he hopes to
work more closely with Valdez in the future.

“Luis Valdez is great, we’re considering
possibilities for him teaching in the Chavez Center in the
future,” he said.

Lupe Valdez, who has been married to Valdez for almost 34 years,
said she was very proud of his accomplishments.

“He is an incredible and wonderful human being,” she
said. “He’s always known what he stood for.”

Wednesday’s benefit was also a fundraiser for the Cesar
Chavez Spirit Scholarships, which are expected to be starting next
year.

These scholarships will be given out to Chicana/o studies
students based on academics and student involvement.

Lucy Zepeda, a third-year world arts and cultures student, was
excited about the award.

“I’m happy and honored to be here,” she said,
“I know all his plays and have been inspired by him, since
he’s a big part of the Chicano movement.”

Valdez is known as the first Chicano playwright to make
Broadway, with his play “Zoot Suit” produced in
1977.

He later broke into Hollywood with the writing and direction of
“La Bamba,” one of the biggest box office hits in
1987.

He has been a recipient of the Aztec Eagle Award, presented by
the government of Mexico, for his contributions to the Chicana/o
movement.

He is also a council member for the National Endowment for the
Arts and the California Arts Council.

The fourth annual awards ceremony began on Wednesday with a
reception, followed by dinner and a program.

The program began with a moment of silence for all those in the
Middle East.

Videos about the accomplishments of Valdez and Chavez followed,
as well as a slideshow about the foundation of the Chavez
Center.

Valdez said he felt honored to receive the award because it
confirms Chavez’s spirit still lives on.

“I’m proud and happy to carry on his work,” he
said.

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