Time Map

Each member of our group has developed a blog post on the Zoot Suit Riots describing one of the following: background, economics, public perspective, female involvement, and different race’s perspectives. We hope this will provide a broad understanding of the Zoot Suit Riots, its causes, and its effects. Our group has also compiled the information from the blog posts below to create a time map. The time map will the different places effected by the riots as well as show which the different times things occurred during the riots. We hope this time map will help you learn more about the Zoot Suit Riots in a fun and informative way.

Please use this link to see the Time Map

http://timemapper.okfnlabs.org/kbear627/zoot-suit-riots-trial

Sources used

Castillo, Richard Griswold Del. “The Los Angeles “Zoot Suit Riots” Revisited: Mexican and Latin American Perspectives.” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 16.2 (2000): 367-91. Jstor. University of California Press, 2000. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.http://matrix.msu.edu/hst/iah221c/mats/delcastillo.pdf

Chibnall, Steve. “Whistle and Zoot: The Changing Meaning of a Suit of Clothes”. History Workshop 20 (1985): 56–81. Web.

Chiodo, John J. “The Zoot Suit Riots: Exploring Social Issues In American History.” Social Studies 104.1 (2013): 1-14. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 May 2016

“Clashes Few as Zoot War Dies Down” Los Angeles Times. 11 June 1943: A1. Print.

del Castillo, Richard Griswold. “The Los Angeles “zoot Suit Riots” Revisited: Mexican and  Latin American Perspectives”. Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 16.2 (2000): 367–391. Web.

“First Lady Traces Zoot Riots to Discrimination” Los Angeles Times. 17 June 1943: A1. Print

Garcia, Mario T. “Americans All: The Mexican American Generation And The Politics Of Wartime Los Angeles, 1941-45.” Social Science Quarterly (University Of Texas Press) 65.2 (1984): 278-289. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 May 2016.

Gregory, Alice. “Zooting Up.” Smithsonian 46.11 (2016): 13-14. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 May 2016.

Guzman, Ralph. “The Function of Anglo-american Racism in the Political Development of ‘chicanos’”. California Historical Quarterly 50.3 (1971): 321–337. Web.

Hallingby, Cecile. “Violence Held Likely if Japs Return to Coast”  Los Angeles Times. 21 June 1943: A5. Print.

Jones, Janet. “Zooey Suit Riots.” Zoom Suit Discovery Guide. Pomona College, 2016. Web.

Lawrence, Jack. “People & Events: The Sleepy Lagoon Murder.” PBS. PBS, 2008. Web. 5 May  2016.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/zoot/eng_peopleevents/e_murder.html

“Mexico Not Expected to File Protest Over Zoot War Here” Los Angeles Times. 11 June 1943: A1. Print.

“Mrs. Roosevelt Challenged on Zoot Statement “ Los Angeles Times. 18 June 1943: A1. Print.

“Mother Tears Up Zoot Suit of Boy Wounded in Clash” Los Angeles Times. 11 June 1943: A1. Print

“Negroes Testify at Hearing on Zoot Suit Riots” Los Angeles Times. 24 June 1943: A8. Print.

Obregón Pagán, Eduardo. “Los Angeles Geopolitics and the Zoot Suit Riots, 1943,” Social Science History 24 (Spring 2000): 223-256.

Overend, William. “The ‘43 Zoot Suit Riots Reexamined”  Los Angeles Times. May 9, 1978: G1.Print

Pagán, Eduardo Obregón. “Los Angeles Geopolitics and the Zoot Suit Riot, 1943.” Social Science History Soc. Sci. Hist. 24.01 (2000): 223-256.

“Police Continue Roundup in Zoot War as Sailor Beaten”Los Angeles Times. 9 June 1943: B1.Print

“Punishment of All Urged to Break Up Zoot Suit War: Calm Rules; Warren Acts to End Strife” Los Angeles Times. 13 June1943: A1. Print.

“Riot Alarm Sent Out in Zoot War: Servicemen Strip and Beat 50; Five Youths Treated at Hospital” Los Angeles Times. 8 June 1943: A1. Print.

Rojas Jr., Victor M. “Murder At The Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, And Riot In Wartime L.A.” Studies In Latin American Popular Culture 24.(2005): 219-221. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 May 2016.

“Sleepy Lagoon Trials: 1942-43 – Zoot Suit Riots, “tangible And Substantial Evidence Is Woefully Lacking”, Suggestions For Further Reading.”Sleepy Lagoon Trials: 1942-1943. Law Library, 2016. Web. 4 May 2016. http://law.jrank.org/pages/2971/Sleepy-Lagoon-Trials-1942-43.html

“Sleepy Lagoon Trial :: Zoot Suit Discovery Guide.” Zoot Suit Discovery Guide RSS. Pomona.edu, 2016. Web. 2 May 2016.

“Time For Sanity” Los Angeles Times. 11 June 1943: A1. Print.

“Timeline: Zoot Suit Riots.” PBS. PBS, 2002. Web. 4 May 2016. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/zoot/eng_timeline/index.html

Turner, Timothy. “Zoot Suits Still Parade Here Despite the O.P.A. Ban” Los Angeles Times. 22 Mar, 1943: A8. Print.

“Watts Pastor Blames Riots on Fifth Column” Los Angeles Times. 11 June 1943: A1. Print.

“Zoot Clash Held Riot Safety Valve” Los Angeles Times. 23 june 1943: A10. Print.

“Zoot Suit Riots.” PBS. PBS, 2009. Web. 3 May 2016. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/zoot/index.html

Public Perception (Bailey Adling)

In the midst of World War II, tensions heightened between white U.S. Navy servicemen and mostly young Mexican civilians, known as zoot-suiters.  Progressively resisting the Navy servicemen’s assertion of their white privilege, the zoot-suiters challenged the servicemen’s superior attitudes and actions by calling them derogatory names.  The servicemen then started sexually harassing both white and Mexican women.  In return, the zoot-suiters and servicemen fought in the streets.  Riots officially started on 3 June 1943 when the Navy servicemen assaulted any zoot-suiters and tore up his or her clothes.  The servicemen actively provoked and even initiated conflict with the zoot-suiters (Pagán 238-240).

 

The Zoot Suit Riots caused fear throughout Los Angeles, in which the public responded back with contempt for the zoot-suiters.  Due to the zoot-suiter’s challenge to authority in attitude, dress, and patriotism, the older Mexican immigrant generation largely disapproved of the zoot-suiters.  In addition, most whites disapproved of the zoot-suiters since it challenged the government’s authority in time of war.

 

Published in a Los Angeles Times article, “Mother Tears Up Zoot Suit of Boy Wounded in Clash,” the parents of teenager Vincente Duarte visited their wounded son.  Duarte was admitted into the General Hospital.  Near the Azusa theater, Duarte was shot in the right leg by a railroad guard during the rioting a week the onset.  Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Trujillo, Duarte’s parents, were frustrated with him for fleeing home and participating in the riots.  Mr. and Mrs. Trujillo even expressed, “[W]hat has happened to him is his own fault”  Interestingly, this is not an expected response from parents, especially when one’s child is injured.  Usually, parents show concern for their child’s injury.  Yet, Mr. and Mrs. Trujillo reflect the greater public opinion towards the mistreated zoot-suiters.  Instead of concern for the wronged zoot-suiters, the common attitude amongst the public is that the zoot-suiters “had it coming.”   Mrs. Trujillo even takes a bold stance by ripping her son’s zoot suit in front of him!

 

In an editorial for the Los Angeles Times, “Time for Sanity,” the author argues that the cause of the Zoot Suit Riots is not systematic, but rather the zoot-suit riots fault stems from enemies abroad.  Due to the wartime hysteria, the public was concerned with World War II, leading the author of this editorial to believe that, “Attempts by any group, faction or political philosophy to use the clashes for purposes of stirring up racial prejudices are unwarranted and are serving the aims of the Axis propagandists.”  Essentially, the zoot-suit riots were believed by some to be an attempt to divide the American people by the Axis powers.

 

In an attempt to record the sustained injuries of the Zoot-Suit Riot victims, the Los Angeles Times “Riot Alarm Sent Out in Zoot War” article describes the victim count, their wounds, and where they are admitted.  At the intersection of Main St. and Broadway, thousands of servicemen pursue zoot-suiters.  The mob-like beatings of these young Mexican American men was degrading.  As a consequence, five young men were admitted to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital due to the beating they received from the servicemen.  In addition, one marine, Private Mariano Gierrez was treated for a deep cut received from suit-zooters at the corner of Second and Olive Street.  Ultimately, the public views the Zoot Suit Riots as being the fault of zoot-suiters, the victims of the Navy servicemen.

Women’s perspective (Anaid Gonzales)

Pachucas

As the name suggests, a “Pachuca” was ultimately a female version of the zoot suit wearing pachucos. But upon closer examination there are clear differences between the women and the men who participated in the events that unfolded during the 1943 zoot suit riots. There were many similarities between the men and women who took part in the riots, for example the slang that they used, “caló”, was used between both of them. The women who chose to be labeled as pachucas were often ridiculed for their decisions. They were thought to be extremely unladylike and inappropriate while using the slang. The other girls at this time strived to be seen as “pure” and “innocent” wearing long skirts and sweater. Pachucas drew attention to themselves with their appearance because they did not want to be labeled as inferior because they were Hispanic. The outfits they wore signified how confident they were, they had had shorter skirts, dark makeup, “finger-tip” leather jackets, and some even had tattoos.

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Famous Pachucas

Amelia Venegas was a 22 year old mother left to care for her child. Her husband was a sailor and was not around, this left her to defend herself. One day while walking in East Los Angeles after her picking up milk for herself and her baby she found a pair of brass knuckles on the ground. She did not use those brass knuckles for a few months until she witnessed policemen harassing a group of zoot suiters. She began yelling at the policemen who took her into custody and found the brass knuckles on her, she was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. Her image was then used to signify the extent of the zoot suiters, reporters expressed that the issue was so bad that even women were breaking the law and not cooperating. Bertha Aguilar had witnessed the Sleepy Lagoon events but when she was called up to court she did not say anything at all because she did not want to jeopardize the safety of her fellow Hispanics. Her actions were not enjoyed by the court but the pachucos were grateful that she did not share any important information. Along with these two women, eight others were also brought to court. Their ages ranged from thirty to twenty one and after the trial was completed almost all of the girls found themselves placed in Ventura School for Girls, since the court had come to the conclusion that they needed to be placed in a correctional facility.

  1. Los Angeles: 34.054908, -118.244345
  2. Ventura School for Girls, Ventura, CA 93001, 34.307192, -119.283157
  3. East Los Angeles (34.020721, -118.165988)

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Economic perspective (Kat Schiller)

In order to understand the trials minority Americans were suffering during World War II, one must consider the economic tribulations surrounding their discriminated subculture. The Zoot Suit riots blistered in June 1943 and managed to crush a vital part of the Californian population. Cultural subgroups, the original residents of this region of the United States, were bashed, beaten and ridiculed for simply trying to survive. Their distinguishable suits, entitled zoot suits, were the at the core of the riots. Low economic status suppressed their natural right of expression; thus, fashion became the only means of self-awareness available to them. “To some men, the suit’s ostentatiousness was a way of refusing to be ignored. The garment had ‘profound political meaning,’ wrote Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man. ‘For those without other forms of cultural capital,’ says Peiss, ‘fashion can be a way of claiming space for yourself’” (Gregory 14).

Soldier, sailors and marines who roamed the street of Los Angeles, June 7, 1943, looking for hoodlums in zoot suits, stopped this streetcar during their search. Crowds jammed downtown streets to watch the service men tear clothing off the zoot suiters they caught. (AP Photo)

Economically, the summer of 1943 demolished the the perception of how the American minority, especially the Mexican segment, were being treated. “Zoot Suit incidents resulted from social and local economic conditions arising from the failure of state and county facilities for juvenile correction to keep pace with the population” (del Castillo 385). This Spanish-speaking demographic, most of which were native to California, were the unfortunate victims of systematic scapegoating. “Officials in Los Angeles seized upon Mexican repatriation as a popular response to the growing economic problems” (Chiodo 1) and furthered tensions within the city. White Angeleno sailors, convinced that Mexicans were the root of evil, channeled their hatred towards terrorizing these zoot suiters (Chiodo 3). Whether these individuals were native to the land or whether they simply chose to sport these boxy ensembles, it did not matter. Those individuals suffered regardless of their location or state of mind. Fleeing their economic state in their home country in search for a more profitable future trapped them in a rut that would continue to haunt them for decades to come.

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Mexican American culture during the 1940s focused on one common goal: achieving common ground with their fellow citizens. “Mexican Americans struggled for integration rather than separation from American society” (Garcia 279) and simply strived to secure a strong social and economic home for themselves. Fleeing poverty and violence to encounter the same conditions was absolutely not an option. Now, the “white” Americans had managed to convince the entire nation that these racial issues were a minor setback in the country (Garcia 285).  The United States, a nation torn apart by World War II, was frantically searching for a group of individuals to place the blame on. With the Latino’s constant struggle to root themselves in American everyday life, they became the perfect scapegoat. Their only means of expression was channeled through fashion, yet the economically successful successfully managed to crush their hopes and aspirations.      

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Sleepy Lagoon Trial (Kirsten Miller)

In 1942, the United States was under a great deal of stress. Pearl Harbor had recently been attacked and the nation was mobilizing, becoming increasingly involved in World War II. Due to the fact that men were leaving their homes and being drafted for war, a large number of domestic industries were in great need of labor. One such industry was the agricultural industry. Therefore, beginning in 1942, the United States Government responded to this need with the Bracero Program, a program that imported mexican labor in order to support the nation’s agricultural needs.

While the labor needs were filled, a social crisis arose. The importation of mexican workers led to a large spike in the mexican population during a time in which the nation was still segregated and racial prejudice was abundant. Therefore, there was a great deal of tension between mexican laborers and white servicemen stationed in Southern California. While this tension was primarily racially driven, the nationalism of the servicemen contributed to the state of social unrest as well. Immigrants no longer considered themselves mexican; however, they could not assimilate into the world of the privileged white Americans; therefore, they formed their own cultural identity, an identity centered on and represented by the zoot suit. Mexican-American youth wore this style of excessively baggy clothing in order to gain a sense of belonging, but during a time when fabric was rationed, this lavish and excessive use of material was seen as an act of defiance. Servicemen who were raised with a strong sense of national pride and were currently fighting for their country saw this expression of a cultural identity as “un-American,” further increasing resentment toward the Mexican-American youth culture. In the context of this powder-keg, it was no surprise that one little spark, the Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial, set off an explosion, the Zoot Suit Riots.

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In this era, minority citizens were denied access to public parks, lakes, and other recreational facilities, ergo they established their own locations for socialization. One such location was the Sleepy Lagoon Reservoir located on William’s Ranch. Mexican-American youth considered this location a watering-hole by day and a lovers’ lane by night. On the evening of August 1, 1942, a leader of the 38th Street Gang, Hank Leyvas, and his girlfriend, Dora Barrios, were at the Sleepy Lagoon Reservoir when an attack from a rival gang occurred. Infuriated that his girlfriend was physically harmed, Leyvas called upon gang members to assist him in retaliation. In search of the attackers, the 38th street gang descended upon a party on the William’s Ranch residence and a riot broke out for a brief period of time. As a result of the violence, Jose Diaz lost his life.

The following morning, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested approximately six-hundred young men and women wearing Zoot Suits. In the following months a highly sensationalized trial occurred in which media maligned and severely persecuted the Mexican- American youth population known as Zoot Suiters. By the conclusion of the trial, an excessively biased jury and judge found twenty-one Mexican-American individuals guilty of being involved in the murder of Jose Diaz.

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In the following months, the Mexican-American community banned together to form the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee (SLDC) under the leadership of Carey McWilliams in order to appeal the case. During this time period however, civil unrest broke out; What would become known as the Zoot Suit Riots began.

White servicemen, raised to hate and resent other races and fed by the prejudiced media frenzy that occurred during the Sleepy Lagoon Trial, began to attack, strip, beat, and publicly shame  Zoot Suiters. Again, the Mexican-American community banned together. This time however, it was for a destructive rather than constructive purpose. Zoot Suiters worked together to defend their neighborhood from the attacks of white servicemen using violent means. The Zoot Suit riots were short-lived; however, their effects were long-lasting.

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In October of 1944, the convictions of the Sleepy Lagoon Trial were overturned on grounds of insufficient evidence, the failure to provide the defendants with legal council, and the fact that the presiding judge, Charles W.  Fricke, was openly biased.

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Analysis:

The failure to deliver justice during the Sleepy Lagoon Trial was not an isolated event but rather an exemplary case overtly displaying the influence race had in a legal system that was supposed to be blind. The magnitude of this trial and the media attention that it captured turned it into a large scale revelation of the unjust treatment minority groups received. This however did not phase the white population, for racial prejudice was part of the social norm and therefore socially acceptable. Newspapers and publications written by the white man supported this “crack-down on juvenile delinquency in minority groups” (Lawrence), and white servicemen felt justified in exerting their racial superiority through acts of physical violence and humiliation.

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In the past, members of minority groups reacted to abuse through small scale rebellions and demonstrations; however, they were easily distinguished and too ineffective to be considered noteworthy. In 1942 however, the Mexican-American community forged together to send a notable response to the abuse and attacks of the white community. Groups of Zoot Suiters resorted to physical violence in order to convey their message. When they were attacked, they fought back and protected their neighborhoods. They also fought the injustices levied by the white community in the legal arena. The SLDC put together an effective case and succeeded in having the conviction of the twenty-one zoot suiters involved in the confrontation at Sleepy Lagoon overturned.  For one of the first times in history, a minority group came together to send a message and ultimately have their voices heard. This was by all accounts a significant step in launching the Civil Rights Movement which wouldn’t reach its height until approximately fifteen years later.

Other Races’ Perspectives (Kaicie Messer)

Apart from the Hispanic community, African Americans were the most prevalent race in the Zoot Suit Riots. They could identify with the plight of the Mexican Americans. They donned the zoot suit uniforms and stood with all minorities in the face of racism and prejudice. Boys like the one in the photo were all over Los Angeles, because the Zoot Suit Riots weren’t just the Hispanics fight. The prejudice and racial tension that sparked the Zoot Suit Riots were felt in every minority in the area at the time and the riots became a fight between white Americans and all minorities. While the causes were seen in every minority community it was mainly youths like the one pictured who took up the fights. Many adults and minority leaders explained the causes of the riots, but condemned them at the same time. Overall the Zoot Suit Riots were fought by young adults of every minority, while the older generations worked to bring issues to the light as well as work to excuse the actions of the young fighters.

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

During the riots young people from minority races were extremely active, while elders attempted to curb the violent fighting. During this time social leaders from different races brought forth different views on why the youth were so drawn to the Zoot Suit Riots. One popular reason was blaming communism as the main cause. In “Zoot Clash Held Riot Safety Valve” Leroy Ingram, an African American community leader, explained that he was being approached by strange individuals who also gave special attention to the African American youth in his organization. He believed this man to be a communist who caused upset in the youth of different races by bringing the economic and social divide between races to the forefront of all conversations. This point of view served two main purposes. The first was it took the blame off of the minority races’ youth by displaying them as naive kids who had simply had a bad influence. The second was to place the blame on communists and giving the white communities someone to fight. By placing blame on the communists it reminded white americans that there was a bigger enemy challenging America. Perhaps the most important piece of the view point is that it does not underplay the economic and social issues of the times. It brushes them under the rug. It doesn’t focus on them, but it also doesn’t dismiss them. It is important to note this because the effects of racism and discrimination were felt in the older generations. They were working so hard to remove the blame from the youth, but they never believed that the riots were unjustified. They simply believed they were provoked by an outside source. Placing the blame on communism was a smart move for the minority communities when they couldn’t place blame on the white americans and the racism that was so prevalent in Los Angeles at the time.

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Some older members of the community, such as Leroy Ingram, believed the Zoot Suit Riots were necessary for Los Angeles to avoid even bigger problems.. The Zoot Suit Riots were sparked by an isolated event, the Sleepy Lagoon Murder. This incident focused on the Hispanic communies, but the riots allowed the African Americans to release their pent up anger. Multiple articles from the time period, including “Zoot Clash Held Riot Safety Valve” and “Negroes Testify at Hearing on Zoot Suit Riots”, explain prevalent problems in African American communities that pushed them to join the riots. In “Zoot Clash Held Riot Safety Valve” African American community leaders explains that difficulty getting jobs is a major issue. In another article ,“Negroes Testify at Hearing on Zoot Suit Riots”, Paul Williams cites the housing shortage for African Americans as a major cause of distress in the community. These major issues were likely to lead to major race riots that could easily engulf the entire city and the surrounding areas.

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This belief shows that the core causes of the racial tensions that caused the riots were felt throughout all minority races in Los Angeles. Community leaders expressed that Los Angeles was headed towards a major riot that could have been far more severe if something didn’t happen. The Zoot Suit Riots served the purpose of relieving some of the anger felt by all racial communities in Los Angeles and succeeded in bringing the racial issues to the public eye.

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The zoot suit riots had far reaching effects for racial relations. It created a severe tension on the home front during World War II. This racial tension would continue on long after the riots were over and implicate all non-white races. A prime example of this is highlighted in “Violence Held Likely if Japs Return to Coast”. This newspaper article cites the Zoot Suit Riots as a main example of why Japanese Americans should not return to the coast following World War II. Its main reasoning is that the tension between Japanese Americans and returning soldiers would be similar to the tension seen between Mexican Americans and service men during the riots. By doing this the media continued to encourage disrespectful and racist actions against the Japanese Americans. The Zoot Suit Riots had far reaching effects on all communities. While it did bring serious racial issues to light, it also gave narrow minded people more fuel in their fight. It caused an even larger divide to emerge in southern California that affected the perception of all races throughout the region. All in all the Zoot Suit Riots created major changes in how people viewed minority races. Some people began to understand the rampant racism and work to change, while others beliefs became harsher and more prejudice.