Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Zoot Suit

"In the spring of 1943, American servicemen attacked youthful Mexican - and, to a lesser extent, African American - civilians, particularly males wearing the flamboyant 'zoot suit' or 'drape shape.' These outfits consisted of narrow-cuffed pants pleated at the waist, long wide-shouldered jackets, knee-length key chains, and flat-brimmed hats atop pompadour hairdos. They were worn by Mexican youth - commonly referred to as pachucos - as well as by African American and Anglo youngsters, mostly as a show of teenage independence. The first confrontations seemed little more than harmless barroom scuffles, but on 3 June 1943 the encounters erupted into large-scale rioting. The GIs, mostly navy recruits stationed at a Chavez Ravine radar base, were incited by lurid street rumors and baseless press accounts of Mexicans attacking Anglo women. Charging that the Mexicans were avoiding military service, the young sailors hired taxicabs and cruised downtown to punish the 'guilty'. They seized their victims from streetcars, movie theaters, and street corners, beat them, stripped them of their clothes, and left them lying on the ground."

- Leonard and Dale Pitt
Los Angeles A to Z

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