(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Las dos caras del patroncito (the two faces of the little boss) typifies, in many ways, Valdez’s early actos. The piece grew out of a collaborative improvisation during the grape strike of 1965 and dramatized the immediate and intense feelings of its audience. Like all the actos, it is brief, direct, didactic, intending not only to express the workers’ anger and urge them to join the union but also to satirize the growers and reveal their injustice. The play succeeds brilliantly by enacting a total reversal of what Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche termed the master/slave relationship.

The play begins with an undocumented Mexican worker being visited by his patroncito, or “little boss,” who appears wearing a pig mask and smoking a cigar. Initially, both play their assumed roles of intimidating master and cowering slave to perfection. Soon, though, the patroncito waxes poetic over his Mexicans. Seeing them “barreling down the freeway” makes his “heart feel good; hands on their sombreros, hair flying in the wind, bouncing along happy as babies.” “I sure do love my Mexicans,” he says. The patroncito reveals a typical condescension, romanticizing the migrant workers’ lives and regarding them essentially as children. When the farmworker responds by putting his arm around him, however, the patroncito says; “I love ’em about ten feet away from me.”

Their conversation takes a...

(The entire section is 520 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Cizmar, Paula. “Luis Valdez.” Mother Jones 4 (June, 1979): 47-64.

Davy, Daniel. “The Engimatic God: Mask and Myth in Zoot Suit.” Journal of American Drama and Theatre 15 (Winter, 2003): 71-87.

Elam, Harry Justin. Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valdez and Amiri Baraka. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Gross, Steven. “Intentionality and the Markedness Model in Literary Codeswitching.” Journal of Pragmatics: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language Studies 32 (August, 2000): 1283-1303.

Huerta, Jorge A. Chicano Theater: Themes and Forms. Ypsilanti, Mich.: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingue, 1982.

Noriega, Chon A. “Fashion Crimes.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies 26 (Spring, 2001): 1-13.

Shank, Theodore. “A Return to Aztec and Maya Roots.” The Drama Review 18 (December, 1974) 56-70.

Valdez, Luis. Interview. In In Their Own Words: Contemporary American Playwrights, edited by David Savran. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1988.