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"Los Vendidos", Luis Valdez: Using stereotypes to end racism

Updated on September 8, 2012

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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    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR

      glassvisage 

      16 months ago from Northern California

      Mel, thank you so much for pointing this out and contributing this insight to the article!

    • profile image

      Mel 

      16 months ago

      You are correct about Valdez calling out the prejudice that are held against Mexicans but you failed to recognize the secretary herself, Miss Jimenez. Miss Jimenez is a Latina herself if the last name is any indicator itself, she acts superior to people from her own race. Plus she works for a man that stereotyped Mexicans. Miss Jimenez is a representation of many Latinos today trying to act white and forgetting their culture or trying to rid of their roots in order to assimilate to a society that wants only one kind of race. Miss Jimenez is central part of the story.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR

      glassvisage 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks John for the comments and for sharing your thoughts!

    • profile image

      John Mammen 

      6 years ago

      Los Vendidos

      1. Valdez is specifically attacking Americans and their materialistic attitude towards everything. This is shown by the fact that the sales man is actually the machine, as opposed to all the Mexicans posing as machines. The whole premise of the satire was that the Americanized customer was looking to buy cheap Mexican Robot labor. Little did she know she was actually speaking to a Robot instead of a real person. Of course the only Robot of the whole group would be the salesman because the whole aspect of selling is an American mantra. The implied messages include that Americans are too materialistic, blinded by patriotism, and indifferent of other people’s needs. Valdez comments that Americans are too materialistic because they just want to go out and buy whatever they want. Valdez thinks that instead of the Americans doing their own work, they decide to get cheap labor to do it for them. When the Mexican-American robot is shown giving his speech he just talks about how Mexicans are uneducated, lazy, and need to be off the streets. Then he continues to just say “God Bless America” over and over again. This also shows an attack towards American Politicians, about how they only say things to get people excited and on board with them.

      2. Even today Americans still complain about Mexican Immigrants, but yet they do a lot of the hard manual labor. This is similar to back then because within Los Vendidos the Mexican “Robots” are being sold for manual labor purposes, or small job purposes. The American customer was there to buy a Mexican for jobs that herself and nobody else in her department would want to do. This can still be seen to be true today; Mexican immigrants make up the majority of the visible construction workers in central Texas.

      3. Acculturate means to be assimilated into another culture. Sancho uses irony by saying the Mexican-American can acculturate very well, but pretending he meant accelerate instead. This is ironic because only the Mexican-American model is talked about in the way it has the ability to mostly give away its cultural roots. That is very accurate in representation to this very day; there are Mexican immigrants that hold onto their culture and others that don’t. Acculturation is much more commonly seen in the Mexican kids that grow up in America. This is because they are exposed to the “American” culture from a young age and befriend other already Americanized kids.

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      jennifer 

      9 years ago

      yes i agree, i have never been exposed to racism. i am a mexican america, and i also was in the environment of stong christian family. its not until i got into high school were i feel like the odd ball. when i speak english a person can sometimes hear my spanish, they can tell i am mexican because of how i say certain word, i grew up in a spanish speaking home and used english only outside of home. this is a great play to show others how it really hurts when they stereotype and asume.

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      Abodos 

      9 years ago

      Well said, glassvisage. Though my father came from India, making me part Indian, I have never experienced racism based on that due to having lived most of my life in a true, strong Christian environment. However, I've gotten my fair share of people thinking I'm Mexican, due to them having such a general and probably inaccurate picture of what a Mexican should be like. This play seems to do a good job at pulling out various stereotypes in order to get people to notice them more easily and realize how offensive they are.

      Personally, I think that the best thing to do in all forms of media after these stereotypes are brought to light is to portray Mexicans, and people of every race, in a way completely different from these stereotypes. Not only would it be less offensive, it would be more creative from an artistic standpoint.

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