These include an Obie for Teatro Campesino in 1968 (a distinguished off-Broadway award) for "demonstrating the politics of survival", as well as Los Angeles Drama Critics awards in 1969, 1972, and 1978, and an Emmy in 1973. In 1983 the San Francisco Bay Critics Circle awarded him Best Musical. His awards also include the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the prestigious Aguila Azteca Award and the Governors Award of the California Arts Council. He has received honorary doctorates from Columbia College, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, the University of South Florida, the University Rhode Island, and the California Institute of the Arts.
The second of 10 children, Valdez was born to migrant farm workers in Delano, California. He received a Bachelor Arts in English from the San José State University, where he produced his first play, The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa. Upon graduation, Valdez joined labor leader César Chávez as a picket captain in the Great Delano Grape Strike of 1965. To support this effort, Valdez founded El Teatro Campesino (The Farmworkers' Theater) and began performing actos—brief theatrical "sketches"—to communicate the need for unionization among farm workers and to educate the public about the migrant workers' plight
In 1977, Mr.Valdez wrote and directed "ZOOT SUIT," one of the most successful plays to originate in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum. Subsequently, it became the first play by a Chicano to be produced on Broadway. The motion picture version of "ZOOT SUIT" for Universal Pictures garnered the prestigious foreign press association's Golden Globe Award nomination for 'Best Musical Picture'. He also directed the box-office smash movie La Bamba in 1987. That same year he received the George Peabody Award for excellence in television for Corridos: Tales of Passion and Revolution which was produced for PBS. In 1995, Valdez was one of the founding professors of California State University Monterey Bay, where he created the Institute for Teledramatic Arts and Technology. His latest honors occurred in 2007 when he was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. That same year Valdez was awarded the USA Artists Rockefeller Fellow in Literature as well as the Legacy Award in Literature from the Smithsonian Latino Center in Washington D.C. Luis is currently working on his book "The Vibrant Being: Genesis of Teatro Campesino" and continues to mentor new generations of theater artists at El Teatro's playhouse in San Juan Bautista, California.