Moctesuma Esparza ’71, ’73

Born and raised in East Los Angeles as the son of a Mexican Revolution refugee, Moctesuma Esparza would become a renowned filmmaker, producer, and one of the 50 “Most Powerful and Influential Latinos” in the United States, as recognized by the Imagen Foundation. As a child, Esparza developed a love for cinema and a strong sense of social justice. He was an organizer of the 1968 Chicano Blowouts, a series of youth-led protests to demand equal educational opportunities for Chicanxs in the Los Angeles Unified School District. At UCLA his first documentary was based on the 1970 Chicano Moratorium, a coalition that opposed the Vietnam War. After graduating from UCLA, he developed bilingual segments on Sesame Street and produced the PBS series Villa Alegre, which won multiple awards. But his big break into Hollywood cinema came with the feature film The Milagro Beanfield War. In 2005, Esparza opened the first multiplex in the Maya Cinemas chain, which cater to Latinx tastes. Since then, he has opened 16 multiplexes in California, with 26 scheduled to open in Texas. And in 2007, he founded Maya Entertainment, which produces and distributes multicultural and Latinx-themed movies and content throughout the world. From his humble beginnings to his Hollywood success, Esparza has been an advocate and ally of the people.

“Because the tragedy is, I’m still the only one. There’s no other Chicano producer in Hollywood even today, no one who’s had a career or looks like they’re going to have a career as I do, and that can’t be. I’m still a prisoner unless that changes.”