The Zoot Suit Riots: The Struggle Of Mexican American Youths

2258 words - 10 pages

Los Angeles is well known for being the center of fashion, media and entertainment, but also serves as the home for many diverse populations: one of them being the Mexican Americans. Since their arrival, the Mexican Americans has been the target of racism from the white men in the United States. Mexican Repatriation resulted in the voluntary or involuntary migration of Mexicans during 1929-1937, in which 400-500,000 Mexicans left the United States and Mexican Americans were forced to become "American" through Americanization. These events led to the accumulation of tension between the two races, which then became apparent in the Sleep Lagoon Murder Trial of 1942 and exploded in the Zoot Suit ...view middle of the document...

The zoot suit was the result of the negligence of certain races by the whites in the United States. Stuart Cosgrove states, "the zoot suit was a refusal: a subcultural gesture that refused to concede to the manners of subservience" (78). Zoot was something worn or performed exaggeratedly and with the development of the suit made with extensive use of fabric, it was known as the zoot suit (Daniels 210). The suits were favorably worn during wartimes, which then resembled the rebellion against the "normal" fashion and identified itself as a form of subculture by itself. Because of the relationship the public has seen between the zoot suit wearers and the gangs, the public developed a negative impression or stereotypes against the suit itself. This led to the notion that people wearing the suits were gangs and a threat to the society itself: which later led to the Zoot Suit Riots. The zoot suits represented the emergence of a subculture within a minority group in the United States during a period of war.The Pachucos were Mexican American youths in which they created a distinctive subculture within a minority group. These Pachucos were known for wearing the zoot suits and were the latter target during the Zoot Suit Riots. They were perceived as rebelling against the social expectations during wartimes, which was to serve for the country. The parents of the Pachucos worked in wartime factories and therefore were not able to supervise their children while they were away working; which gave the Pachucos more freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. These Pachucos refused to join the United States military and instead walked around in the streets and went to dance clubs. The Pachucos lacked the patriotism that many white youths at the time were exposed to; this conflict in beliefs, led to the explosion of the tension between the Pachucos and the white sailors that led to the Zoot Suit Riots. Also, the freedom given to the Pachucos led to the creation of their own subculture by "developing their own music, language, and dress" (Castillo 369). They spoke Calo, a slang comprised of English and Spanish which made them a distinct subculture."The Pachuco is a symbol not of the guilt of an oppressed Mexican minority, but of a cancerous growth within the majority group which is gnawing at the vitals of democracy and American way of life. The Pachuco and his feminine counterpart, the 'Cholitas,' are spawns of a neglectful society - not the products of a humble minority people who are defenseless before their enforced humiliation" (Daniels 206).Wearing the zoot suits, the Pachucos represented their resistance against social expectations and were able to create their own subculture.The female Mexican American youths, Pachucas or Cholitas, were viewed completely different from the male Pachucos. The Pachucas were very stylish and with their accessories worn, they were viewed as auxiliaries within the Mexican American youths (Daniels 202). While the male Pachucos...

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