"Los Vendidos" is a single-act play by Luiz Valdez, a popular Spanish playwright, writer, actor, and director. Valdez is often referred to as the father of Chicano theatre. This is because he's also one of the co-founders of the El Teatro Campesino, a California-based Chicana theatre company founded in 1965. This company focuses on exhibiting to their audiences the different stereotypes the American people usually attach to the Chicano experience, and it does this with performances in both English and Spanish.
Los Vendidos was written in 1967 and was first performed on stage at Elysian Park, LA, at a Brown Beret, another pro-Chicana movement, gathering.
“Los Vendidos”, in English, could mean “sell-outs” or “soldouts”. "Los Vendidos" is a satirical play that reflects the typical American society and reveals to the reader the common perceptions people generally have about Mexicans in American society. The short play also demonstrates the rough treatments the Mexicans in the US face, especially in the hands of government officials.
In this article, our focus shall be on "Los Vendidos" — play summary; we are going to be examining the dominant themes in the text and how Valdez was able to use these to convey his messages to the reader or audience.
The setting of "Los Vendidos" revolves around the establishment of Honest Sancho, who is quite the opposite of what his first name denotes. His character is that of a rather deceitful runner the Californian store, Honest Sancho's Used Mexican Lot and Mexican Curio Shop, which sells different types of stereotypical Mexicans and Mexican-American models (or robots). These robots can be easily (or similarly so) manipulated and controlled by their buyers, with the barking out of orders and “the snapping of their fingers”
The storyline of the play centers on the character with the name, Miss Jiménez — “The Secretary” in the administration of Governor Reagan — who consults Honest on the type of robot to buy to appeal to the Mexican people who are also the people who earn a low income.
Honest, doing his job, respectfully suggests three types of models to her, namely; the revolutionary Mexican, the gang member Mexican and the farmworker Mexican, which are three of the stereotypes American society usually labels on the Chicano society. He does this by snapping his fingers to control them. And for her to easily choose, Honest also demonstrates how each one of them behaves too.
Even though The Secretary is also a Mexican-American herself, she is completely unaware of these prejudices. At the beginning of the play, she even corrects Honest after he pronounces her surname in the Spanish way, choosing instead to be called in an anglicized manner.
The first model Honest shows her is a strong farmer worker that can only speak Spanish. Because he cannot communicate in English, Miss Jiménez quickly rejects him.
The second model to be examined is the gang member, “Johnny Pachuco,” of the 1950s, a raw, violent person and drug addict, who is also very submissive to control and manipulation.
The Secretary rejects this model also and requests a more romantic one. It is at this point that Honest presented The Revolutionary, “one of the glorified bandit or martyrs of the early Californian history” (Wikipedia, 2019). After discovering he is not a made-in-America model, Jiménez decides to also reject him.
At the end of the day, Honest shows her Eric Garcia, a contemporary Chicano robot model. He is a cleanly dressed, interesting, polite and intelligent public speaker. In addition to his captivating qualities, he is also a university graduate who can fluently communicate in both the Spanish and English languages.
The Secretary became interested in the model and after some bargaining, she finally decides to buy him and pay 15 grand. Soon after payment, Eric begins to blurt out a revolutionary cry, “'¡Viva la raza! ¡Viva la huelga! ¡Viva la revolución!' (Long live the people! Long live the strike! Long live the revolution!)”, which awakens the others and forces them to join in the protest.
In fear, Miss Jiménez frantically exits the shop, leaving the supposed models to discuss. It is revealed the four are in fact real humans rather than robots and that it is only Sanchez that is the robot. They decide to leave the shop and share the money taking Sanchez along for servicing and an oil job. This ends the play.
As mentioned earlier in the article, "Los Vendidos" was written by Valdez as a way of presenting the different prejudices and stereotypes that the Chicano society, in the American of the 60s, faced. As a Mexican-American himself and as a result of his first-hand familiarity with the experiences of the Chicana, Valdez tries to represent the hardship and harsh treatments Mexican immigrants face themselves in their host Community, America; especially in the state of California (Barbour, no date).
The true sellouts, that Valdez was so concerned about, are those like The Secretary, Miss Jiménez, who abandons the Mexican culture to adopt that of the Americans. Immigrants who price the American ways of life than that of their heritage.
The play is a criticism of the general belief that American society strongly holds amongst themselves. It aims to show that these stereotypes of the Mexican people “as either farm workers, gang members or revolutionaries” in the real sense greatly lacks sensitivity to other peoples' culture (Barbour, no date).
"Los Vendidos" presents the twin idea (or themes) of what Americans think of Mexicans and what they want from them as well. We can see this in The Secretary's indecision in choosing a model, as well as her issues with each of the models.
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