continued Another twist in the new play is the role of women. "I'm entering the new century with a new approach," Valdez said. "All the major characters in the play are women. That's important to me, and that, too, is a function of being mature. Women are to be envied in some ways because of the relationships they form. Men are hermetically sealed; we can have friends, but the friendship often stays on the surface." Valdez said that writing the play "was very much a healing process for me; to capture elements of my mother and my grandmother -- especially my mother's spirit -- has given shape to one of the characters. My mother was self-educated, and she was a spiritual counselor. Her main work was her spiritual work, but she had never had an opportunity to attend school. So her namesake is a Berkeley student studying to be a social anthropologist." This female emphasis in The Mummified Deer mirrors the position of women in contemporary indigenous communities. "On an international scale, it's the women who have established and maintained the communities. Currently, the women are becoming more vocal, and there is more gender balance in the original communities."
I watched Lakin Valdez, Luis's son, pose for a photo. Lakin Valdez will dance the sacred Deer Dance in the play. I sense from his dramatic posture and commanding presence that he will be perfect in the part. Jane Holden Kelley comments on the origin of the Deer Dance, "The special religious significance of the deer...predates the arrival of the Spanish. Invested with a wealth of supernatural beliefs and ritual, deer-hunting occupied a role of ongoing importance in the supernatural and psychological areas of the world of Yaqu� men." The dance represents both the deer and the hunter -- life and death.
In order to complete this play, Valdez was given a two-year residency by the San Diego Repertory Theater. This seems appropriate, given the play's content and the special relationship Valdez has with San Diego, which he sees as culturally rich. "You have people from every conceivable background. There are areas in San Diego that are fully integrated. Many people can see across the Mexican border from their houses. All these contrasts provide opportunities for contrast and fusion. The people from Tijuana and San Diego have created a region that is dynamic and prophetic." The play covers a century of Mexican and California history, and it opens in a hospital in San Diego in 1969.
It's said that artists are the antennae of society. Valdez's work has always anticipated the future while annealing the disparate and painful aspects of the present. Now he wants "to try and recapture what was lost. We, who lived and matured in the 20th Century, can provide the histories for the next generation."
At 60, Valdez is still as political as when he created Teatro Campesino in the mid '60s to advance the cause of striking farmworkers. Most amazing, Valdez has retained his optimism. He says his family history is no different from others who have suffered racial and genocidal oppression. "I am trying to make a hopeful connection; we are really striving for a better world and to acknowledge our sameness through human confrontation. We're trying to get together, to come at last face to face."