In the current essay we will analyze the case and identities though a social/political lens, describe a history of Latino ethnic labels in the US, and -Identify how this still relates to current socio-political issues affecting Latinos in the US, according to Suzanne Oboler (1995).
“During June and July of 1942 the Los Angeles press began to build a “crime wave” among Mexican-American youth which was unsubstantiated by any official records. Stories of arrests were played up on the front pages. No mention was made of subsequent release for lack of any charge.”, according to Pagan, Eduardo O. (2000).
The Zoot Suit Riots were a series of riots in Los Angeles, USA in 1943. They inflamed during the Second World War between soldiers stationed in the city and Mexican-American youth gangs, led by so-called Pachucos, because of the Zoot Suits wore them, were known.
On 3 June 1943, a group of soldiers complained that they had been assaulted during their shore leave from a pachuco gang. In response, gathered soldiers and went to downtown and to East LA, the center of the Mexican population. Upon their arrival they attacked all the men in Zoot suits, they found their way through these neighborhoods and destroyed many of you, the suits at bay in order to then burn them on the street. The police arrested the beat Americans of Mexican descent in several cases, for disturbing the peace, according to Ed Duran Ayres (1941).
Pachuco is the name of the stereotype that defined a young Mexican American (Chicano) that emerged in the mid 20’s who wore flashy clothes, which consisted of a suit with pants too loose, but tight in the waist and ankles, a long coat with wide lapels and broad shoulders, padded, called Zoot Suit, dressed in a hat decorated Italian style at times with a pen, wearing trousers with suspenders and adorned with long strings to one side, and was used with French-style shoes usually black and white bicolor. Some U.S. Hispanic gangs adopted the pachuco style, and most whites assumed that if someone dressed in that style was a member of that gang, according to Del Castillo, Richard Griswold “The Los Angeles “Zoot Suit Riots” revisited: Mexican and Latin American Perspectives” (2000).
Several hundred Pachucos and nine soldiers were a result of the riots that took place during the following days incarcerated. Of the nine soldiers arrested eight dismissed without penalty – one of them had to pay a small fine. The Mexican-Americans fared worse, some died in custody since their injuries were not treated, others were convicted of crimes that could not be clearly demonstrated.
Finally, the government took on 7 June, one and stated that Los Angeles was closed effectively and immediately for all military personnel. In response to the riots Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her weekly column about the problems facing the Mexican-American community because of racism in the United States.
There was a system based on the riots play, which was filmed 1981st Thomas Sanchez also wrote a detective novel called The Zoot Suit Murders of the arguments used as background events. A swing album Zoot Suit Riot with the same title was in 1997 by the American band Cherry Poppin ‘Daddies released.
In 1943, Los Angeles, racial tensions were running high, particularly because of the verdict in January, the murder trial of the Sleepy Lagoon, which concludes with the conviction of twelve young Chicanos, despite the lack of evidence, according to The Sleepy Lagoon Case (1943). The riots erupted soldiers returning from war and pachucos, Mexican youth gangs. They were triggered by an attack on a group of sailors. In retaliation, groups of soldiers besieged the East Los Angeles Chicano neighborhoods, to pass tobacco everyone dressed in zoot suit. The police arrested more often than Mexicans, many hundreds were imprisoned. The military authorities responded by banning all Los Angeles to military personnel.
Sleepy Lagoon murder was the name of that newspaper and radio commentator, used to describe the alleged murder of Jose Diaz, whose body was found on Williams Ranch near Bay (later named “Sleepy Lagoon” in the media) to the south-east of Los Angeles California, August 2, 1942. Murder led to the 1942 Los Angeles, California criminal trial of 21 Latino youth; convictions were lifted on appeal in 1944. Case was considered a precursor Zoot Suit riots of 1943, according to Obregón Pagán, Eduardo (2009).
Sleepy Lagoon reservoir was near the Los Angeles River, that there were Mexican Americans. Its name is derived from the popular song “Sleepy Lagoon”, the big band leader and trumpeter Harry James. Tank was located near the city of Maywood at approximately 5500 Slauson Avenue.
There are several apparent reasons for the unrest. At first, there was the racial tension between Mexicans and whites. As a fact, in the 20th century, many Mexicans immigrated from Mexico in places like Texas, Arizona and California. At the times of the Great Depression the majority of white Americans wanted the Mexicans to be removed due to the understanding that they are competing with Americans for resources and jobs. As a fact, in the early 1930’s in Los Angeles County, more than 12.000 people of Mexican descent – including many U.S. citizens – were deported to Mexico. Despite the deportation and threats from white at the end of 1930 was still about 3 million Americans of Mexican descent in the United States. Los Angeles had a high concentration of Mexicans outside of Mexico. Hispanics were identified in the area of the city with the oldest, most dilapidated housing. In addition, job discrimination in Los Angeles has led many Mexicans to work below the poverty level wages. Los Angeles newspaper described the Mexicans with a racially inflammatory propaganda. These factors have caused a lot of racial tension between Hispanics and whites.
It was in the late 1930’s that young Latinos in California, for which the media usually uses the pejorative term Mexican, established a youth culture. They have their own music, language, dress for men, and also the style was to wear Zoot Suit -.. Vivid long coat with wide pegged trousers and pork pie hat, a long stick, and shoes with thick soles – they were called “Pachucos.” In the beginning 1940, numerous arrests and the negative stories in the Los Angeles Times fueled negative perceptions of the Pachuco gangs among the general public. It should be noted that summer of 1942 Sleepy Lagoon case was in the national news, at the time when teenage members of the 38th street gang were accused of killing a man by the name of Jose Diaz in an abandoned quarry pit. This case has created a lot of anti-Mexican sentiment and nine people were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. As the author says: “Many of Los Angeles saw the death of Jose Diaz, a tragedy, as a result of large picture of lawlessness and rebellion among Mexican American youth to distinguish between self-fashioning through their differences, and, increasingly, to more drastic measures to suppress the juvenile crimes. While ultimately, persuasion nine young men were lifted, it caused a lot of hostility to Americans of Mexican descent. Much of this hostility were associated with the police and press representative of all Mexican youth “Pachuco hooligans and thugs of the child.”
Zoot-Suit Riots dramatically revealed the polarization between the two groups of young people within the military community: predominantly black gangs and Mexican young people who have been at the beginning of subculture Zoot-suit. The riots were primarily racial and social resonances, although some argue that the main issue may have been related to patriotism and war.
After the U.S. entry into the war in December 1941, people had to come to terms with the limitations of regulation and prospects for the draft. In March 1942, the first act of war rationing of production of the Council had a direct effect on the production of suits and all clothing containing wool. There was an attempt to institute 26% reduction in the use of fabrics. War Production Board has developed rules for military production, which Esquire magazine, “rationalization costumes from Uncle Sam.” Rules effectively banned the production of Zoot suits and the manufacture was ceased to advertise any suits that can go beyond the military-industrial council leadership. Nevertheless, the demand for Zoot suits has not declined, the manufacture of clothes was continued. Thus, the polarization between the military and pachucos was immediately obvious: a shirt and chino battledress were obviously a form of patriotism, whereas wearing Zoot-suit was deliberate and public way to disregard the rules valuation. According to Rule, James B (1989), “Zoot-suit was moral and social scandal in the eyes of the authorities, and not just because it was associated with petty crime and violence, but because it openly insulted the laws of valuation”. In the harmony of the wartime society, Zoot-suiters were, according to Octavio Paz, “a symbol of love and joy or horror and disgust, the embodiment of freedom, disorder and illegal.”
Immediate eve riots. After the Sleepy Lagoon case, a series of violent incidents broke out between Mexicans wearing Zoot suits and the staff of the U.S. in San Jose, San Diego, Oakland, Los Angeles, Delano, and elsewhere. The most serious of these acts of violence broke out in Los Angeles.
The conflicts between the Mexicans and military personnel had a great impact on the top of the unrest. The first occurred May 30, 1943, four days before the riots. There were dozens of soldiers and sailors, including seaman Joe Dacy Coleman. Group walked along the main street, and there they have seen a group of young women on the other side of the street. Except for Coleman and the other soldiers, the group crossed the street approach women. Coleman continued, passing by a small group of young men in Zoot suits. When he passed, Coleman saw one of the young people raise their hands to “threatening” manner that he turned around and grabbed him. Then, something or someone hit a sailor in the neck and he fell to the ground unconscious, and broke his jaw in two places. Also, on the other side of the street young men attacked the soldiers out of nowhere. Finally, the military managed to get to Coleman and save him.
The second incident occurred four days later on June 3, 1943. About eleven men left the bus and started walking down the main street in East Los Angeles. They found a group of young Mexicans that were dressed in Zoot suits and started talking. That was what the sailors say that they jumped and beaten by the gang Zoot suiters. The next day, 200 members of the U.S. Navy have ended about 20 taxi cabs and headed to East Los Angeles. When sailors spotted them the first victims, most of them are 12-13 year old boys, they beat the boys and adults who tried to stop them. They are also deprived of their boys Zoot suits and burnt rags in a pile. They were determined to attack and strip all the minorities that they have come across who were dressed in suits Zoot. It is with this attack, that Zoot Suit riots began. All in all, it can be said that the Zoot suiters will stay in the memories of Americans and Mexicans for a long time, as the events connected with it were considerable and the echo of them can be heard even today.
Ed Duran Ayres (1941). A background to California history. Mercury Printing Co (1941). 20 pages.
Del Castillo, Richard Griswold “The Los Angeles “Zoot Suit Riots” revisited: Mexican and Latin American Perspectives” (2000). Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Summer, 2000), pp. 367–391
Mazon, Maurizio (2002). The Zoot-Suit Riots: The Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX. 2002
Obregón Pagán, Eduardo (2009). “2”. Murder at The Sleepy Lagoon. ReadHowYouWant.com. pp. 23–28.
Pagan, Eduardo O. (2006). Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A., New York: The University of North Carolina, 2006. Pg. 159.
Pagan, Eduardo O. (2000). “Los Angeles Geopolitics and the Zoot Suit Riot, 1943” Social Science History, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), 223-256
Pagán, Eduardo Obregón (2003). Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race & Riots in Wartime L.A. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2003.
Rule, James B (1989). Theories of Civil Violence. 1. University of California Press. pp. 102–108.
Suzanne Oboler (1995). Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives. Retrieved May 5, 2011 from http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/O/oboler_ethnic.html
The Sleepy Lagoon Case (1943). Retrieved May 5, 2011 from http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb7779p4zc&brand=calisphere&doc.view=entire_text