"Los Vendidos", Luis Valdez: Using stereotypes to end racism
The phrase "theatre as a weapon" comes into play once more with the presentation of "Los Vendidos." Rather than incite confidence, however, the play acted to humble the audience. Written by Luis Valdez, "Los Vendidos" attempted to highlight Latino stereotypes and their effects on society and on those stereotyped. The Mexican characters in the play symbolized each label cast against the race, allowing readers to fully analyze and comprehend the prejudices they may very well hold against the race. By showcasing how Mexicans were treated by society through the secretary's rejection of each representative, people might realize their own prejudices and understand the how Latinos feel.
The individual "models" appear to have their own identities within the Mexican race and each identity stands for a stereotype society generally holds of Mexicans. For instance, the farm worker "loves his patrones [masters]," "goes back to Mexico and doesn't return... until next Spring," and doesn't speak English. Johnny the urban model knife fights, steals, and "built for speed, low-riding, and city life." The revolucionario was romantic, rode horses, and started revolutions, like in the movies. The Mexican American was educated and "Mexican but American." In the end, however, the characters were stripped of stereotypical features and seemed to be of one people, all speaking Spanish and working together. The characteristics attached to the labels were fabricated by society.
The ridiculous qualities of the models also help emphasize how unfair it is to typecast. The pores on the worker's arms that "emit a certain grease that allow our model to slip and slide right through the crop" and the Johnny's diet of "hamburgers, Taco Bell tacos, Lucky Lager beer, and Thunderbird wine" sounds rude and unrealistic in writing, but it may not be so apparent to someone on an everyday basis. Also, "Honest Sancho's Used Mexican Lot" is a play on a used car lot and likens Mexicans to objects, which is how Mexican people probably felt when stereotyped against, as people to be fetched whenever needed. Blatant exaggeration and wit helps obviate the ludicrousness of stereotyping.
The final line of the play is that of the revolucionario referring to the robot Sancho and saying, "He's the best model we got!" The statement is significant in its cynicism; it shows that Mexican people are tired of being stereotyped against and realize that, if no action is taken, then more names will be created and prejudice will continue. The references and mindsets will only be renewed as society changes, such as how the Mexican-American was an "improvement" to the revolucionario because he was educated and the Mexican renegade was no long so romanticized.
The secretary's refusal of each model for the flaws she finds is a reflection by Valdez of how unreasonable prejudice is by how quickly people will judge. The secretary approaches Sancho with a list of characteristics she wants in a "Mexican type for the administration," such as being "debonair," "hard-working," "sophisticated," and "American-made," but in looking at the models and inquiring about them for only a short time, she decides they are not up to par. This is similar to when some people see a skin color or hear an accent and automatically make up their minds about the bearer of the trait, whether they believe they will rob them or just not understand English. Many people make judgments but do not realize it at the time.
"Los Vendidos" is not a shoulder to cry on for the Mexican targets of stereotyping, but rather a method of ending prejudice in itself. Mexican people dealt with it and this is evident by the play. Defining each label with every character showed that Mexicans recognized the stereotypes. However, this does not mean they were ready to accept them. Creating fictional characters with stereotypical features presented in such a way to emphasize the lack of truth and reason behind branding. The play was meant to make people see the unfairness of their judgments and obtain their understanding.
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