Friday, June 9, 2017

Zoot Suits: A Fashion Movement that Sparked Mexican American Resistance

Zoot Suits: A Fashion Movement that Sparked Mexican American Resistance by Angela Fichter — YES! Magazine:

Zoot Suits: A Fashion Movement that Sparked Mexican American Resistance

This June marks the 74th anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots, a series of weeklong race riots that swept Los Angeles in the summer of 1943. The spirit lives on today.

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Dressed in a white shirt and pegtop trousers, the fashion of the time for young males influenced by jazz culture, José Díaz headed to a friend’s birthday party in rural Los Angeles. It was the summer of 1942, and 22-year-old Diaz, who was born in Mexico but raised in the United States, was scheduled to report for induction into the U.S. Army the next day. According to accounts, Díaz was excited about the U.S. entering World War II and looked forward to the opportunity to serve his country. Because he would be leaving home for boot camp, he decided at the last minute to attend the party, although he’d initially told his mother he didn’t feel up to going. Toward the end of the night, a group of young people known for trouble showed up seeking revenge for an earlier altercation. A fight broke out, and many were injured. Díaz was left beaten and stabbed, and would later die in the hospital from a brain contusion.
Much like today, fear of the other had firmly permeated the American psyche.
The incident, which became known as The Sleepy Lagoon Murder, sparked widespread fears among white Angelenos over “dangerous, unruly,” Mexican teens, mostly known as zoot suiters for their attire—ballooned pants and long coats. Then-Governor Cuthbert L. Olson used Díaz's death as a call to action. The Los Angeles police arrested more than 600 Mexican American youth. More than 20 indictments were issued in Díaz’s death, and, in 1943, members of a group called the 38th Street Boys were convicted. One was sentenced to life in prison.
Within months, what became known as the Zoot Suit Riots would erupt.
In the throes of WWII, extreme patriotism reigned. Much like today, fear of the other had permeated the American psyche, and many working class whites were Zoot Suits: A Fashion Movement that Sparked Mexican American Resistance by Angela Fichter — YES! Magazine:

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