Moctesuma Esparza

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Moctesuma Esparza
Born Moctezuma Esparza
(1949-03-12) March 12, 1949 (age 66)
East Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Education University of California, Los Angeles
Occupation producer, entertainment executive, entrepreneur and community activist
Years active 1973

Moctesuma Esparza (born March 12, 1949) is a producer, entertainment executive, entrepreneur and community activist. Moctesuma Esparza is well known for his contributions to the movie industry and commitment to creating opportunities for Latinos everywhere. As an American film producer and the CEO of Maya Cinemas, a theater chain catering to the United States Latino audience. He is also a partner of Robert Katz in the company Esparza/Katz Productions. Moctesuma founded Maya Entertainment in 2007, a vertically integrated media content company providing full service motion picture distribution and production. [1]

He is "an outspoken promoter of Latino films"[2] and many of his films focus on Chicano themes. He has produced over twenty films, several of them for television, and has won over 200 [3]awards.[4][5]

A participant in the 1960s-era movement for the civil rights and equality of Mexican-Americans, Esparza remains committed to public service, donating his time to educational, cultural, and professional organizations, especially those that aim to educate Latinos in the business of media production.[4]

Childhood and education[edit]

Esparza was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California. His father, a refugee of the Mexican Revolution, migrated to the United States in 1918. His father's awareness of the motivations behind the Revolution imbued him with a strong sense of social justice.[4] As a child, he viewed Spanish-language films in the many Los Angeles theaters that offered such fare.[2] Moctesuma was a theatre major in high school. He acted, played the saxophone, and loved movies. [6]

During his sophomore year at UCLA, Moctesuma created an ethno-communications program at the film school at UCLA. He wrote a proposal, made the curriculum, and successfully created the first multicultural film program in the United States. He later became a student in it also. [7][8]

During the 1960s, he participated in the Chicano Movement, agitating for the civil rights of Mexican Americans. He was one of the organizers of the 1968 Chicano Blowouts, a series of youth-led protests inspired by educator Sal Castro in which Mexican-Americans demanded equal educational opportunities. His role in the walkouts as "liaison to the press,"[4] which led to his interest in the media. The movement is memorialized in his 2006 HBO film Walkout.

He attended the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received his B.A. in 1971 and M.F.A. in the same field in 1973.

Film career[edit]

Esparza's earliest work in film was in service to the Chicano Movement. He filmed a speech given by Reies Lopez Tijerina at UCLA, as well as the 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War. The Moratorium footage became his first documentary, Requiem 29. This documentary was pitched to NBC and went on to win an Emmy Award. [9] He also helped organize Chicano student conferences and the Media Urban Crisis Committee, which analyzed the effects of media on minority communities and recommended that members of those communities attend film school.

After graduating from UCLA, he worked for the children's television program Sesame Street, developing bilingual segments. Shortly thereafter, he produced the pilot and the first season of the PBS program Villa Alegre, which won multiple awards. His first commercial production, ’’Drunk Drivers Get Carried Away’’, received a Clio Award. [10] [11]

Following the success of Villa Alegre, Esparza became an independent producer of documentaries. He also filmed a production of the Chicano comedy troupe Culture Clash, A Bowl of Beings, prior to breaking into Hollywood with The Milagro Beanfield War.

Maya Cinemas[edit]

In 2005, Esparza opened the first multiplex in the Maya Cinemas chain, a 14-screen theater in Salinas, California. Since then, he has opened 16 other multiplexes in California, with 26 more scheduled to open in Texas. Maya Cinemas primarily shows first-run Hollywood films, sometimes with subtitles in Spanish, but also screens foreign and independent films. The concessions offer traditional snacks such as popcorn as well as "Latino favorites like burritos and churros."[2] They all feature Mayan motifs, hearkening back to the Los Angeles theaters of Esparza's youth.

In 2007, Esparza resigned from the board of trustees of the California State University system. After planning to open a Maya Cinemas at the Campus Pointe Project at California State University, Fresno, a neighboring landholder who also planned to open a cinema presented a legal challenge, charging that Esparza had a conflict of interest in developing the project while sitting on the board of trustees. Despite the University's finding that there was no conflict of interest, Esparza resigned out of "respect for the intent of the government code to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest."[12]

Maya Cinemas opened in Pittsburg,California that replaced the Brendan Theaters location which closed in April 2012. The grand opening was held on August 3,2012, but the ribbon cutting was held on August 2, 2012 at 5:30 PM.

Maya Entertainment[edit]

In 2007, Moctesuma founded Maya Entertainment, a vertically integrated media content company providing full service motion picture distribution and production. Maya acquires, produces, and distributes multicultural and Latino themed product for all distribution platforms throughout the world and is dedicated to the growing U.S. Latino market. This year, Maya expanded significantly releasing more than twenty films. [13]

Leadership Positions[edit]

He has served on: the Corporate Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Television Fund, the Board of Directors of the Museum of Latin American Art, a Trustee of the California State University System. a commissioner to the Los Angeles City Retirement System.

Currently serves on: the National Hispanic Cultural Center Advisory Board, the Latino Coalition Against Aids Advisory Board, the National Hispanic Media Coalition Advisory Board, the Toigo Advisory Board, the Minority Media Telecommunications Council Board of Advisors, the American Film Institute Board of Trustees, the UCLA School of Theater, the Film and Television Dean’s Executive Board the Claremont University Consortium Board of Overseers. the New America Alliance, he is a Board Member and former Chair the Marathon Club, co-chair Chairman of the Board of the Latino Theater Company in Los Angeles. [14]


Moctesuma has won over 200 awards in his lifetime. [15] These awards and honors consist of an Academy Award nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, an Emmy Award, a Clio award, an ALMA award, a Cine Golden Eagle award. Moctesuma was also selected as one of the 50 “Most Powerful and Influential Latinos” of 2008 by The Imagen Foundation. [16]


Production credit[edit]


Public service[edit]

  • Founding member, César Chávez Foundation (2002-Present)
  • Member, Board of Commissioners, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (2009-Present)
  • Corporate Board of Directors, Motion Picture Television Fund
  • Advisory Board, National Hispanic Media Coalition
  • Board of Directors, Museum of Latin American Art
  • Member, Board of Trustees, California State University (2004-2007)
  • Chair of the Board, New America Alliance (2000-03)
  • Co-Founder/Board member, National Association of Latino Producers
  • Founder and Board of Directors member, Los Angeles Academy of Arts and Enterprise Charter School[17]
  • Board of Advisors, Minority Media Telecommunications Council



  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Bernstein, David (2005-08-01). "A New Multiplex Is Aiming to Capture a Bilingual Audience". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e Payan, Victor (1998-05-21). "Interview with Moctesuma Esparza: From the L.A. High School Walkouts to 'Selena' and 'The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca'". In Motion Magazine. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  5. ^ Garcia, Erick. "Moctesuma Esparza - Biography" (HTML). IMDB. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  6. ^ Esparza, Moctesuma. Personal Voice Recording Interview. May 24, 2011.
  7. ^ Esparza, Moctesuma. Personal Voice Recording Interview. May 24, 2011.
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  12. ^ Trustees of the California State University (2007-05-17). "Minutes of Meeting of Committee on Campus Planning, Buildings and Grounds" (PDF). California State University. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  13. ^
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  17. ^ "Board of Directors" (HTML). Los Angeles Academy of Arts & Enterprise website. Los Angeles Academy of Arts & Enterprise. Archived from the original on 2008-04-29. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 

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