On Strike and On Stage: Migration, Mobilization, and the Cultural Work of El Teatro Campesino


  • Elizabeth Rodriguez Fielder University of Mississippi




This essay looks at the role of labor activism through the cultural work of El Teatro Campesino, the theater company that emerged from the farmworkers’ strike led by Cesear Chavez in Delano, California, during the mid-1960s. Through makeshift performances along the picket line, the farmworkers and their creative visionary, Luis Valdez, innovated Chicano/a performance and created an activist aesthetic that has continued to influence Chicano/a performance and art. Their productions, which started as small improvisational actos, drew from a wealth of transnational influences as well as from a larger proletariat and activist theater tradition. However, El Teatro Campesino adapted these techniques to their local resources. The result created a unique forum that enabled promotional education about unions and workers’ rights to exist side-by-side with themes of self-reflection and criticism concerning the risks of identity politics. The essay explores the methods by which El Teatro Campesino questioned and critiqued ethnic identity and argues for a more complex approach to their earlier picket-line entertainment. It proceeds to consider the importance of cultural production for labor mobilization, and argues for a more integrated analysis of the relationship between activism and art.




How to Cite

Fielder, E. R. (2014). On Strike and On Stage: Migration, Mobilization, and the Cultural Work of El Teatro Campesino. American Studies in Scandinavia, 46(1), 103–121. https://doi.org/10.22439/asca.v46i1.5153