The Play

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A huge switchblade stabs through a giant newspaper. Headlines read: “Zoot-suiter Hordes Invade Los Angeles, June 3, 1943.” The knife slashes down, and a young Chicano steps through the hole in pegged trousers and a four-foot watch chain. Reaching back into the slit, he finds his knee-length jacket and pork pie hat. Slipping into this “zoot suit,” he steps forward, assumes a “cool” stance and begins to speak in Spanish.

He is El Pachuco, the spirit of the Pachucos—gangs of young, alienated Mexican-Americans living uneasily in a country which regards them with suspicious distaste. A play about these Pachucos is about to unfold, he says, switching easily into English, realizing that Anglos—Americans not of Mexican descent—may not otherwise understand what they are about to see and hear.

When El Pachuco finishes, the curtain flies up to reveal a lakeside dance in progress a year earlier. Jitterbug rhythms fill the July night air as El Pachuco and the dancers salute the zoot suit, singing of how it establishes their identity and brings romance and excitement into their lives. Suddenly a rival Chicano gang, the Downey Gang, appears at Sleepy Lagoon. Hank Reyna, the leader of the 38th Street Pachucos, yells a warning to Rafas, his opposite number of the Downey Gang, who has begun to manhandle Hank’s brother Rudy.

A moment later sirens sound from all directions—la jura, the law. Pachucos are rounded up and stand with their hands raised. When they turn around, they form a line-up inside a police station. In a series of barked messages, headlines, and press releases, the audience learns that a Chicano has been killed and hundreds have been arrested.

Hank remains on stage as the others are marched off. El Pachuco, the ever-vigilant observer, now makes it clear that he is, among other things, Hank’s alter ego—his other self. Hank is convinced that the police mean to charge him with the murder although he is innocent and had planned to report for duty to the Navy the next Monday. El Pachuco warns, “This ain’t your country,” and Hank, acknowledging brotherhood with him, resolves defiance.

Left alone after the police interrogate him, attempting to wring a confession, Hank’s thoughts travel to his barrio home shortly before the killing, to his loving, good-humored Mexican family. It is a bit macho in the men’s insistence—Hank and his father’s—that a stricter standard of behavior and modesty applies to sisters and girlfriends than to the men. Hank’s father Enrique, although slightly puzzled by the young people’s American ways, is proud of his manly son and remembers his own youth as a revolutionary in Mexico. Hank, he thinks, is made of the same stuff.

Meanwhile, the yellow press is stirring up Los Angeles against the “Mexican Crime Wave” and “Zoot-Suited Goons”; in this play headlines, reporters, and newspapers themselves take on symbolic dimensions as they contribute to racial prejudice. The jailed Pachucos maintain their bravado under Hank’s leadership, though they have little confidence in Anglo justice. Consequently, they are as mistrustful as El Pachuco when George Shearer, a “people’s lawyer,” offers his services. Convinced that they face the gas chamber, they accept the gringo’s offer and narrate to him the events of July 21, 1943.

Pachucos and Pachucas dance again. Rudy is drinking heavily when Rafas and his gang appear. This time Hank and Rafas pull switchblades: El Pachuco abruptly halts the play. “Two more Mexicans killing each other” is just what the Anglo audience “paid to see,” he says. When he “unfreezes” the action, Hank lets Rafas go with a kick.

Bundles of newspapers mark the cell where Hank...

(This entire section contains 992 words.)

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now receives a new visitor, Alice Bloomfield, who tells Hank that Pachucos are now being accused by the newspapers of taking orders from Japan. Hank is dumbfounded, but he distrusts the alluring do-gooder and her social worker’s jargon.

The trial of the gang, presided over by a judge who is recognizable as a policeman seen earlier, is a travesty. From his bench—a bundle of newspapers—he humiliates the defendants while smiling on the prosecutor—the Press. Hank’s girlfriend Della testifies damagingly, in a flashback to the confusing events of the Sleepy Lagoon killing, and the kangaroo court hands down a verdict of life imprisonment for Hank and the gang as the first act concludes.

Attacks on Chicanos by sailors and Marines in weeks succeeding the trial do not discourage Alice Bloomfield from organizing a defense committee to seek an appeal, but Hank remains suspicious, and El Pachuco warns him not to expect much. In addition, George Shearer has been drafted into the Army, and a tangle with a guard lands Hank in solitary confinement.

Alice Bloomfield deluges Hank with letters reporting the enlistment of Hollywood celebrities to support his cause. Hank finds himself attracted to her, but he has doubts—and his feelings for Della offer more conflict. Similarly, Alice’s Jewish sensibilities respond to Hank’s plight, but she is alienated by his explosive anger, his commitment to Della, and her awareness of his deep-rooted prejudices against the Anglo society to which she belongs.

America’s war abroad passes in a flurry of shouted headlines while Hank waits in prison. On the heels of American victory comes triumph for the Pachucos, too, when their appeal succeeds and they are released. The final scene of the play, “Return to the Barrio,” is left deliberately ambiguous. Hank must resolve his relationships with Alice and Della. Rudy appears unable to forget the humiliations received at the hands of servicemen during the war. Suspicious police still dog the Pachucos, and the euphoric moment of Chicano pride and unity felt by the Pachucos at their release quickly vanishes. The future for those with brown skins, the play seems to say, may lead either uphill or downhill: to integration into American life or to more violence, prison, and even death.

Dramatic Devices

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From start to finish, the audience’s attention is riveted on El Pachuco, the quintessence of the “cool” Chicano. Not only does he comment on the action in chorus-like fashion but he also shares Hank’s role as protagonist. In effect, El Pachuco is master of ceremonies, a leading figure, and an interpreter of what is seen. Dressed in a zoot suit to end all zoot suits, he carries himself, as a New York reviewer said, in a “backward tilt that suggests he is suspended by a wire from the navel.” He is outrageously self-reliant and unintimidated by anything Anglo authority can invent. Unsinkable, unfoolable, unflappable, he wins first grudging admiration, then affection, and finally a sort of respect as he rallies flagging spirits.

The play is openly partisan in its celebration of El Pachuco as a hero of his people, striving—in Luis Valdez’s words—to be “theater as beautiful, rasquachi, human, cosmic, broad, deep, tragic, comic, as the life of La Raza itself.” Maintaining “beauty and spiritual sensitivity” inside this ethnic context has been difficult in a production designed for general audiences, and Luis Valdez has revised his play for many years, hoping to strike the right balance between pessimistic naturalism, joyous affirmation, and folkloric theatricality.

To complement its ethnic quality and provide authenticity, a large portion of Zoot Suit is spoken in calo, or street Spanish—so much so that an audience gradually becomes familiar with oft-repeated words and phrases. Spanish is not used merely as flavor, as so often is the case of foreign languages in Hollywood films or television programs. Further, it is calo, not readily comprehensible even to many Hispanics. Cubans, Puerto Ricans, even native Mexicans may have great difficulty in catching the meaning of lines.

Because the unrelenting enemy of the Chicano in Zoot Suit is the Press, representing biased Anglo opinion and racial superiority, newspapers are treated as nearly animate things. Valdez uses the papers much as Elmer Rice used numbers in his expressionist classic, The Adding Machine (pr., pb. 1923). Beginning with the newspaper/curtain that first reveals El Pachuco, newspapers both define and confine Chicano lives. When reporters rush out of a press conference, they leave the street littered with newspapers from which Hank’s father Enrique, a municipal street sweeper, learns what is happening to his son.

Other devices used by Valdez that are associated loosely with the expressionist theater are the flashback, the split stage, and a robot-like behavior that is introduced at critical points. The courtroom scenes make use of the latter to suggest the mechanical administration of justice and a lack of human feeling. When Alice “sends” letters, she reads them aloud to recipients who reply in like fashion. Near the end of the play, when Hank struggles to decide which woman has the better claim on him, his barrio girlfriend Della or the advocate in his legal battle whom he has come to love, each woman stands at an opposite end of the stage in a visual reminder of the conflict Chicanos face between two ways of life.

Places Discussed

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*Los Angeles

*Los Angeles. Sprawling Southern California city in which the play is primarily set in 1942—a time when the city is preparing for war, divided by race, and filling up with military personnel getting ready to ship out to the Pacific. Tensions are high, the mood among military personnel is hyper-patriotic, and the city has no tolerance for anyone who appears to be an unpatriotic slackard. When hundreds of servicemen and party-going Mexican Americans accidentally clash, the result is a large-scale riot that results in hundreds of arrests, including one for murder.

The play’s bilingual dialogue, flamboyant “zoot-suit” costuming, energetic dance hall settings, Latin rhythms, and references to Mexican cooking convey the strongly Mexican flavor of Los Angeles. The play’s experimental staging, echoing Chicano street theater, moves rapidly from set to set, from past to present, and from mainstream perspectives to Mexican American perspectives. Meanwhile, the play’s master of ceremonies, El Pachuco, pulls everything together through his onstage narration.

Newsboys shout inflammatory headlines on city streets, describing armed zoot-suiters knifing and killing until stopped by the U.S. Navy and Marines and deservingly imprisoned. In one fight scene in an unnamed city bar, Anglo servicemen overpower and strip the Pachuco narrator.

Scenes in the play alternate rapidly among a police station, a courthouse, a jail, and a prison, and the homes, parties, dance halls, and city streets. Flashbacks merge past and present, as a zoot-suited “master of ceremonies” identified only as “El Pachuco”—a term for a street tough—wearing the colors of an Aztec god, narrates the onstage action, connecting the disparate settings and providing multiple interpretations of onstage reality.

At the end of the play, playing with the Mayan philosophy of multiple levels of existence, El Pachuco calls forth a series of vignettes representing alternative futures for the murder suspect, Henry Reyna: a supportive and united family scene in a family living room; a prison scene with Henry killed in a prison fight; a Korean War scene, with Henry dying heroically; a public political scene with Henry awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor; a family vignette of Henry as a father surrounded by several children; and a mythic Aztec scene, with Henry transformed into El Pachuco, a symbol of Chicano heritage and oppression.

Reyna house

Reyna house. Lower-middle class home of the family of Henry Reyna, who is arrested for murder during the riots. His family sits around a kitchen table, the mother cooking, the father sharing a first drink with his son, as the three youngsters prepare for a night out.

Dance hall

Dance hall. Scene of Reyna’s farewell celebration before he is to ship out for the Pacific the next day. Bright colors, lively Latin music, zoot suits, and fast-paced dancing signify a nonmainstream culture. A minor scuffle with a rival gang pushes dancers into the streets, where gang territory and switchblades turn Reyna’s brave attempt to end a one-sided conflict into police violence and mass arrests.

Sleepy Lagoon reservoir

Sleepy Lagoon reservoir. Romantic spot in East Los Angeles where young couples meet, and near which the Mexican Americans, attracted by lively music of a birthday party, are mistakenly attacked. The Mexican American youths tell one story, the Anglo youths another.


Courtroom. Place in which Reyna is tried for murder. His trial is a legal farce. The deck is stacked against Mexican Americans, who are regarded as unpatriotic outsiders, and the judge prejudges Reyna’s guilt. The trial itself creates the passion within the play. The boys of Reyna’s gang are looked upon as social delinquents, as criminals, and even as foreigners. At no point during the proceedings are they or their attorney allowed a fair opportunity to present their case. The trial is presented in only two scenes of the first act, but it propels much of the conflict of the play.

Historical Context

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The Sleeply Lagoon Murder and the Zoot Suit Riots
Valdez's play is loosely based on the events of a 1942 murder, which came to be known as the "Sleepy Lagoon Murder." On August 1, 1942, a man named Jose Diaz (renamed Jose Williams in the play) was found by the side of a road, bleeding and unconscious. He later died of head trauma; he had been drunk at the time of his attack. Although his wounds could have been inflicted by an automobile, it was determined that he had been the victim of a gang fight that had occurred nearby. Public outcry, fanned by the headlines of the newspapers, resulted in a roundup of hundreds of Mexican-Americans. Henry Leyvas (Henry Reyna in the play) and twenty-one of his friends, who had participated in the fight, were arrested and charged with the murder of Diaz. The young Chicanos sported "zoot suits," long, baggy trousers topped with long-tailed coats and long "ducktail" hairstyles, the fashion for pachucos or teenage Mexican gang member.

In an outright violation of the gang members' civil rights, the district attorney requested, and the judge ordered, that the defendants be required to wear their zoot suits during the trial and not be allowed to cut their hair, so that the jury would see that they were "hoodlums." Further, they were required to stand up whenever their names were mentioned, even when the statements were inflammatory or indemnifying. They were also denied the right to speak with their lawyers. E. Duran Ayers, the Head of the Foreign Relations Bureau, was brought in as an "expert" witness to attest to the "bloodthirsty" nature of Mexicans, descendants of the Aztecs, renowned for their practice of human sacrifice. Ayers's formal report stated that "the Mexican would forever retain his wild and violent tendencies no matter how much education or training he might receive." Nine of the men, including Henry Leyvas, were sentenced to five years' imprisonment for second-degree murder.

About six months after the end of the trial, riots broke out in Los Angeles. The riots, known alternatively as the "Zoot Suit Riots" and the "Sailor Riots," were a xenophobic reaction to the Mexican-American youth gangs, made all the more intense by the events of World War II. In the summer of 1943, a large group of sailors traveled through the Mexican-American community in East Los Angeles in rented cabs, beating up every "zoot suiter" they encountered, including women and young boys who really didn't fit the pachuco image. In response, the police went after the victims: scores of Mexican-Americans were rounded up in mass arrests. Although a handful of Anglos were arrested, none were charged. The local press fanned the flames of the riots by reporting a "Mexican crime wave" that was being valiantly controlled by the service men. It was not until military officials declared the city of Los Angeles off limits for all military personnel that they riots diminished. In October of 1944, the Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the Judge's decision on the Sleepy Lagoon case due to legal misconduct, and the 38th Street Gang members were released.

World War II
It is not a coincidence that the Zoot Suit Riots occurred during the heat of World War II. Xenophobia, undue contempt or fear of foreigners, was exacerbated by a perceived threat that Americans of foreign heritage would turn against Anglo-Americans. To prevent this occurrence, thousands of Japanese-Americans, including two hundred Japanese-Latin Americans, were herded into internment camps throughout the West. It was not until 1988 that restitution was made to those who suffered physically, emotionally, and financially from the relocation.

In the 1940s, fear of foreigners extended to numerous cultural groups; Los Angeles had many ethnic neighborhoods, and the presence of military bases full of personnel readying themselves for war made Los Angeles a hot spot for culture clashes and violence. Ironically, of the ethnic groups who enlisted in World War II Mexican-Americans suffered the most casualties.

Literary Style

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Valdez's Mexican Theatre FormsZoot Suit is a combination of actos (or "protest skits"), mitos ("myth"), and corrido ("ballad"); the combination draws upon traditional Mexican songs and dances, traditional stories, and the political activism of Valdez's previous work with the socially active El Teatro Campesino. The play also has a strong documentary element with its basis in historical events. The result is musical docudrama of epic proportions.

In the beginning of his career, Valdez wrote, or rather orchestrated, since he did not always commit the actos to paper, simple and brief political protest pieces aimed at audiences of migrant workers. Most lasted only fifteen minutes. These actos used masks, simple but exaggerated storylines, and minimal settings and props. Often the actors sported cards proclaiming their generic roles—"worker," or "patroncito" [manager]—rather than adopting an actual character. Characterization is not important in social protest plays, since the purpose is to condemn acts committed against a people, not a person. Thus Henry Reyna "is" El Pachuco, representing the tragic and self-destructive genre of pachuco gangs as well as their victimization by a xenophobic society.

The mitos moves the allegorical agenda of the actos into the spiritual realm. Valdez created mitos to fulfill his vision of "a teatro of legends and myths." He told David Savran in an interview for American Theatre that to him, myth is "so real that it's just below the surface—it's the supporting structure of our everyday reality." In a Valdez mito, a mythical character interacts with the other, human, characters and sometimes takes controls the play like an onstage director. El Pachuco was not the first mythical character Valdez used: the Aztec god Quetzalcóatl and a precursor to El Pachuco, La Luna ("the moon"), appear in his allegorical play Bernabé (1970), and a child named Mundo ("earth") is born to skeletal figures in El fin del mundo (1976; the title means "The End of the Earth"). Comet sightings and symbolic sets and rituals further underscore the presence of myth in these plays. The mythic quality of El Pachuco in Zoot Suit is signaled by his ability to stop and start the action with a snap of his fingers; it is confirmed when he rises, Christ-like, wearing the Christian cross but also dressed in an Aztec loincloth, in Act II, scene vii.

The corrido has a long history in Mexican culture; its presence adds an element of folk art to Valdez' s plays, being the Hispanic version of the American musical. Valdez's fusion of these unrelated theatrical forms into a fresh, new, dramatic concept put Chicano theater onto the American theatrical map.

Brechtian Influences and Epic Theatre
In addition to historical and traditional Hispanic elements, Valdez also looked to the Epic Theatre technique pioneered by German playwright Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children). Brecht's best-known plays were socially conscious works that sought to make audiences think about the playwright's political agenda. To achieve such results, Brecht turned to "alienation" techniques that prevented the audience from judging his plays on an emotional level, thus freeing them to judge a play's concepts in a purely intellectual, empirical manner. These techniques included placards that informed the audience of the major plot points that would be unfolding within each act. Brecht also broke up his narratives with satirical songs that jarringly diverted the audience's attention from episodes that might allow them to form an emotional connection to characters. El Pacucho functions as an alienating device in Zoot Suit, often stopping the action and directly addressing the audience. Valdez's play also qualifies as Epic Theatre in its use of a wide range of characters across a considerable time period.

Mixing Spanish and English
In areas of the United States with significant Spanish-speaking populations, the practice of mixing Spanish and English in newspaper journalism, radio programming, public signs, and schools as well as in drama has become a hotly contested topic, raising issues of cultural hegemony—whether one language should dominate another. In 1978, to use whole lines of Spanish in a play was to address it primarily to a bilingual audience, although the non-Spanish-speaking members of the audience had little trouble understanding the context of the Spanish. In Zoot Suit, the characters switch to Spanish in moments of intimacy, teasing, and emotional outbursts, as when the 38th Street Gang routs the Downey Gang, and Tommy elatedly proclaims the victory in mixed Spanish and English: "Orale, you did it, ese! Se escamaron todos! [you ran them all out!]."

Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, mixes English with Spanish in her novels. She explained that Spanish is "the language of sensations and emotions, of the day to day." Duke University professor and poet Gustavo Perez Fermet, author of a collection of poems called Bilingual Blues agreed, saying that "English is very concise and efficient," while "Spanish has sambrosura, flavor." In Zoot Suit, the scenes of the trial and the boys' discussions with George are primarily in English, while the dance and fight scenes have whole passages in Spanish, especially the insults. Official business is communicated in English, while "street" business is communicated in the gang's vernacular Spanish, which is not formal Spanish but "pachuco" Spanish, full of slang expressions.

Compare and Contrast

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1940s: The Hispanic community and other ethnic groups suffer obvious racism at the hands of the military, the police force, the press, and the judicial system during the xenophobic years of World War II.

1978: Student movements of the last fifteen years seek equal opportunities in education for Chicano children and an end to civil and human rights abuses of Chicano people in the United States. By 1978, however, the Chicano movement is in decline.

Today: Most people uphold their legal and moral obligation to treat all Americans equally. The sense that equality has been achieved has led some institutions, colleges and universities, to remove their Affirmative Action programs, even though true equality does not exist for all ethnic groups or all U. S. citizens.

1940s: The United States joins World War II in 1941. At the time of the Zoot Suit Riots, enlistment in the armed services is at a fever pitch as military bases across the country prepare men and women for the war. There is almost universal support for the United States' involvement in the war.

1978: After tremendous public pressure, the last U.S. troops left Vietnam in 1973. Anti-war sentiment is still high in 1978, and many veterans are still seen as butchers guilty of horrible war atrocities.

Today: In the last twenty years the United States has been involved in several military offensives but no large-scale wars. Hand-to-hand combat has given way to remote weaponry. Military personnel and veterans are viewed neither as heroes or scapegoats but as people performing assigned jobs.

1940s: Fashions are fairly conservative and universal; there is not much variety in clothing styles for mainstream Americans. Zoot suits are a conspicuous marker of otherness, an attempt by Hispanic men to set themselves apart from Anglo society.

1978: Dressing differently is a fashion rage, from paper dresses to hippies' bell-bottom jeans. Conventional fashions such as the standard business suit are considered "square" or "uncool."

Today: Dress is much more casual than the 1940s, yet more conservative than the 1970s. Radical trends, such as body-piercing and tattoos, proclaim the wearer's statement of opposition against mainstream society.

Media Adaptations

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Zoot Suit was filmed on stage in 1981 by Universal Pictures at the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood with segments of cinematic material interspersed, lending occasional moments of realism. It is widely available on VHS.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Barrios, Gregg. "Zoot Suit: The Man, the Myth, Still Lives: A Conversation with Luis Valdez" in Chicano Cinema: Research, Reviews, and Resources, edited by G. D. Keller, Bilingual Press, 1985, pp. 159-64.

Berg, Charles Ramírez. Review of Zoot Suit in the Bilingual Review, Volume 10, nos. 2-3, 1983, pp. 189-90.

Eder, Richard. Review of Zoot Suit in the New York Times, 1979.

Simon, John. "West Coast Story" in New York, April 9, 1979, p. 93.

Watt, Douglas. Review of Zoot Suit in the New York Daily News, 1979.

Acuña, Rodolfo. Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, 3rd edition, Harper & Row, 1988.

Traces the development of Hispanic-American playwrights.

Alvarez, Lizette. "Spanish-English Hybrid Is Spoken with No Apologies" on LatinoLink, life/life97/0324lspa.htm, December 15, 1998.

This website discusses the use of "Spanglish" as well as the employment of alternating English and Spanish in conversations and writing.

Bruce-Novoa, Juan, editor. Retrospace: Collected Essays on Chicano Literature, Arte Público, 1990.

Essays on Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Hispanic literatures.

Electric Mercado. El Teatro Campesino,, December 13, 1998.

A web site devoted to Latino cultural centers, with a number of pages devoted to Valdez's theater company in San Juan Bautista, California.

Elam, Harry J., Jr. Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valzez and Amiri Baraka, University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Traces the development of social protest in drama, comparing and contrasting Valdez's work with that of African-American playwright Amiria Baraka, the author of Dutchman.

Huerta, Jorge A. Chicano Theatre: Themes and Forms, Bilingual Press, 1982.

Explores the varied types of Chicano drama from traditional corridas and festivals to revolutionary theater.

Kanellos, Nicolàs, editor. Mexican-American Theatre: Then and Now, Arte Público, 1983.

Essays on the development of Mexican-American drama.

Mazón, Mauricio. The Zoot Suit Riots, University of Texas Press, 1984.

Historical background and social analysis of the 1943 riots in Los Angeles.

Orona-Cordova, Roberta. "Zoot Suit and the Pachuco Phenomenon: An Interview with Luis Valdez" in Mexican-American Theatre: Then and Now, edited by Nicolás Kanellos, Arte Público, 1983.

In this interview, Valdez discusses El Pachuco of his play and real-life gang pachucos.

Pizzato, Mark. "Brechtian and Aztec Violence in Valdez's Zoot Suit" in the Journal of Popular Film and Television, Volume 26, no. 2, Summer, 1998, pp. 52-61.

Analyzes the role of violence in Zoot Suit as a symbol of cultural sacrifice.

Sanchez-Tranquilino, Marcos, and John Tagg. "The Pachuco's Flayed Hide: Mobility, Identity, and Buenas Garras" in Cultural Studies, edited by Lawrence Grossberger, Cary Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler, Routledge, 1992.

The authors discuss the role of violence in the figure of the pachuco, both real and onstage.

Savran, David. "Interview with Luis Valdez" in American Theatre, Volume 4, no. 10, January, 1988, pp. 15-21, 56-57.

Valdez speaks of his aspirations, influences, and work in the theater.

Suavecito Zoot Suit Riots,, December 13, 1998.

A web site for Zoot Suit clothing that contains a history of the Zoot Suit Riots.

University Of Texas's The Making of MEChA: The Climax of the Chicano Student Movement, student/mecha/research.html, December 20, 1998.

This website presents a detailed history of and bibliography for researching the Chicano movement.

Valdez, Luis, and Stan Steiner. Pensamiento Serpentino: A Chicano Approach to the Theatre of Reality, Cucaracha Press, 1973.

Contains Valdez's philosophy on the various threads of social resistance, myth, and celebration that make up Chicano theater.


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Davis, R. G., and Betty Diamond. “Zoot Suit: From the Barrio to Broadway.” Ideologies and Literature 3, no. 15 (January-March, 1981): 124-132. Analyzes the social and historical influences on the play. Zoot Suit is traced from the historical event through the creative interpretation made by Valdez. The differences between history and the drama are noted and explored.

Huerta, Jorge A. “Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit: A New Direction of Chicano Theatre?” Latin American Theatre Review 13, no. 2 (Summer, 1980): 69-76. Explores the influence Zoot Suit has had on Chicano theater. Tracing the history of Chicano theater, Zoot Suit is analyzed as a turning point at which Chicano concerns were brought to wider public attention.

Lubenow, Gerald C. “Putting the Border Onstage.” Newsweek 109 (May 4, 1987): 79. Explores the influence Zoot Suit has had on the perception of Hispanics. A short biography of Luis Valdez is also included.

Martin, Laura. “Language Form and Language Function in Zoot Suit and The Border: A Contribution to the Analysis of the Role of Foreign Language in Film.” Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 3 (1984): 57-69. Explores the usage, function, and meaning of the language in Zoot Suit.

Oroña-Córdova, Roberta. “Zoot Suit and the Pachuco Phenomenon: An Interview with Luis Valdez.” In Mexican American Theatre: Then and Now, edited by Nicolás Kanellos. Houston: Arte Público, 1983. In this interview with the author, the historical influences on the play are discussed. The development of the play and its social messages are also discussed.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide