Manuel Reyes writes a letter to Alice on April 28, 1943. In this letter he tells Alice that he is thankful for all she has done and he talks about how his life is going on the inside. He joined the navy, he was then arrested for returning back to the Navy Station to take his pledge. When he was arrested his was treated like a German spy. He is buying defense stamps and he volunteers to do war work. He goes to church and he received his holy communion. He was very glad to hear from Alice.
This June marks the 70th anniversary of the Zoot Suit Riots, which some critics call "the worst mob violence in Los Angeles history."
William Jefferson's insight:
Over the years, more recent uprisings may have displaced the Zoot Suit Riots in the public consciousness. Yet, the trajectory of 1943 helps to understand these later episodes of violence. While some argue that the riots of 1966 and 1992 stood as tragic expressions of protest against police brutality and institutional injustice towards Los Angeles' African American community, the Zoot Suit Riots demonstrated the rigidity of American culture toward non-whites, such that simply donning an extravagant suit in the context of a nation at war might bring not only verbal reprimand, but violent, race-based retribution. Moreover, the 1943 unrest also demonstrates how youth cultural movements can be demonized and scapegoated by officials in the process distorting its politics, meaning, and importance, leaving us with an anemic grasp of our history and culture.
Zoot-suited young men (and some young women). Sailors would often insult Mexican Americans as they traveled through their neighborhood.rumors spread about sailors searching out Mexican American girls. On the military bases, stories circulated about the violent retaliation suffered by sailors who dared to date Mexican American females. The tension continued to escalate until a street fight between sailors and Mexican American boys sparked more than a week of fighting in June of 1943 known as the Zoot Suit Riots.
In this letter, the Youth Committee for the Defense of Mexican American Youth talks about how the Mexican American youth are getting treated badly. The youth are being discriminated. 24 mexican american boys are accused of first degree murder. The defense of mexican american youth are begging Mr. Wallace (vice president0 to step up and help them and to also go see Mr.Rockefeller and ask him to also help. The youth do not have anything in their neighborhood every time they are spotted by police, they get arrested. They just want peace for the youth. They would like for the city to give the youth places to play.They also started a defense club and they been raising money by collecting scrap iron
By the beginning of 1943, America was deeply engaged with World War II. In Los Angeles, the city had already been emptied of its residents of Japanese ancestry. Young Latinos, unlike their elders, were not content to stay within their barrios, but were spilling into downtown dance halls, movie houses, pool halls and clubs. As young men are prone to do, many young Latino males distinguished themselves with distinctive hairdos (duck tails) and apparel (drape shapes or zoot suits. Wide-brimmed hats, broad-shouldered long coats, high-waisted peg-legged trousers and long dangling chains). They called themselves pachucos.
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