El Teatro Campesino

Mexican carpa theater

For over forty-five years, El Teatro Campesino has championed the use of traditional arts and culture as a vehicle for effective social change, whether combating global climate change in association with the Monterey Bay Aquarium or teaching young migrant school children from Salinas about their indigenous heritage.

Founded in 1965 by Luis Valdez, El Teatro Campesino — or, The Farm Worker’s Theater — began as the educational and cultural wing of the United Farm Workers movement.  A playwright and a farm worker himself, Luis initially sought to dramatize the plight and motivation of the striking farm workers, and used centuries-old traditional Mexican arts to inspire striking farm workers and Chicano student activists.  In the process, a Chicano teater movement was born, one aiming to unearth the cultural legacy of the Americas and to preserve community-based expressive forms.

Today, as a grassroots arts organization and performing ensemble based in San Juan Bautista, El Teatro Campesino keeps the tradition of Chicano theater alive, giving multiple generations in the Latino communities of California’s Central Coast the knowledge, training, and encouragement to challenge the human condition through traditional performing arts.

In 2011, a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program supported a two-month theater outreach program for rural farm-working towns of the Salinas Valley in Central California, featuring free performances and theater workshops rooted in the Mexican carpa tradition and its descendant, Teatro Chicano.