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Imagine a stranger, someone who knows nothing about you, judging you due to your race. They assume they know who you are, and your destiny based on what they believe is true. However, what they believe is a fact is merely a racial prejudice far from the truth. This is known as a stereotype. A stereotype is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Oxford). It is a concept created based on what people see, not what they know. Los Vendidos, a play written by Luis Valdez, highlights typical stereotypes that the Mexican race experiences by creating characters that portray labels held against the race. Written during the Chicano Moment of the 1960s, Los Vendidos, or “The Sellouts,” shows how the Mexican race felt perceived by American society by exaggerating the typical stereotypes and prejudices they experienced to show the impact of misrepresentation.
Los Vendidos takes place in Honest Sancho’s Used Mexican Lot and Mexican Curio Shop. The shop, resembling a used car lot, sells “products” or “models” of stereotypical Mexican characters, designed to cater to the whim of the buyer and controlled simply by a snap of a finger. Each character stands for a stereotypical label that the Mexican race was experiencing during the Chicano Movement. Miss Jimenez, a secretary of Governor R. Regan’s, visits the used Mexican lot to buy a “Mexican type for the administration” (Valdez 1) that will show diversity among the administration. While Miss Jimenez is a Mexican-American herself, she does not acknowledge the stereotypes and seems ignorant about her own culture. Even though the models are in garments that portray the stereotype they embody, Miss Jimenez has no clue what each of their roles are.
Honest Sancho shows Miss Jimenez several types of Mexican models that exemplify the main stereotypes: a farm worker, a Mexican gangster, and a revolucionario. Each model’s identity embodies the stereotype they are representing. The farmworker comes with an extra feature, a wide brimmed sombrero that keeps “off the sun, rain, and dust” (Valdez 2) and though he is hardworking, durable, and economical, Miss Jimenez disapproves of the fact that he cannot speak English. The more “urban model” (Valdez 4), also known as Johnny Pancho, able to speak English, is also capable to knife fight, resist arrest, and swear. While Johnny Pancho can speak English, Miss Jimenez does not buy this model because of his connection with gang related activity and arrests. Miss Jimenez, becoming frustrated with Honest Sancho, says she is looking for “something more traditional, more romantic” (Valdez 6) that “will attract women voters” (Valdez 6). The revolucionario is a romanticized, more traditional, model of Mexican portrayed in the movies as being a horse riding romantic that starts revolutions. While he fulfills some of the requirements Miss Jimenez is looking for, the revolucionario comes from Mexico, and she tells Honest Sancho, “We cannot buy anything but American made products” (Valdez 7).
Honest Sancho, finally understanding what Miss Jimenez is looking for, introduces him to Eric García, a Mexican-American model. Eric García stands for the stereotypical Mexican-American that Miss Jimenez is looking for. He is described as being “a clean-shaven middle-class type in a business suit, with glasses” (Valdez 8). Being very sophisticated, bilingual and college educated, he can fill all the roles Miss Jimenez is looking for. After she pays Honest Sancho for the Mexican-American model, he begins to malfunction. Eric leads the other models in a revolt, causing Miss Jimenez to run out of Honest Sancho’s Used Mexican Lot empty handed. It is then revealed that the “models” were in fact human beings, and Honest Sancho was the true robot. Like the title suggest, Miss Jimenez is the true sellout because she has turned her back on her own culture in order to conform to what she believes American society wants her to be.
Los Vendidos or “The Sellouts” by Luis Valdez showed how American society perceived Mexicans. Valdez created four exaggerated characters to show how Mexican-Americans felt judged by Americans. The secretary’s refusal of each model, except the Mexican-American, is significant. She rejects the models due to what she sees as flaws, showing how quick individuals were to judge due to an unreasonable prejudice. For example, the farmworker did not speak English, the Johnny Pancho model was too violent, and the revolucionario started revolutions. She rejects all the models except the Mexican-American because he is so like her and that he stands for what she wants him to, conformity. Showing the dangers of accepting racial stereotypes, Los Vendidos was to end racial prejudices and stereotypes against the Mexican race by making others understand how their judgemnts led to misrepresentation of an entire race.
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