By James Phillips
June 30, 1943
Los Angeles, California– In recent events, 28 men have been arrested over a clash with local servicemen. The majority of these men were of Mexican decent.[i] Zoot Suiters have become an increasing problem in this city, especially with the influx of Mexican-American immigrants seen in California over the past couple of decades.[ii] Seen with a long coat and high-waisted and baggy pants made with excessive material, Zoot Suiters cannot be missed in this time of simplicity due to the war. The suit makes one stand out and is often associated with African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. Gang members are also associated with this attire, which includes these minority races. Though much attention has been given to the men in the zoot suits, not much is known about the women.[iii]
Known as Pachucas, women Zoot Suiters can be identified just the same as their male counterparts are. They often wear loud clothing such as a long-shouldered coat, a pleated skirt, fishnets, and platform shoes. Pachucas are typically associated with Mexican-American gangs, however, this is not always the case. “It is hard to be a Mexican-American woman in this society,” began Ms. Maria Alvarado, “we Mexican women find this Pachuca attire to be the style in our part of the city, however, when we dress this way, we are associate with gangs simply because we are Mexican and not white.”[iv]
Above: A Pachuca and her style [x].
Mrs. Olivia Oldman, a citizen of Los Angeles who lives in the same section of the city as Ms. Alvarado, had a different opinion. “These zoot suiters are disrespectful in the way that they dress and act. We are in a war! To dress so flamboyantly is unpatriotic in my opinion, especially in respect to the women who should be showing support for our men on the warfront.”[v]
Pachucas are also barely accepted within their own Mexican-American society. “I immigrated here in 1920 with my husband, Rafael,” said Mrs. Consuela Lopez. “We have worked hard to merge with American society and to be accepted. This has all been undone by Pachucas who make our culture seem as if we are nothing but hoodlums and troublemakers.”[vi]
When this statement was presented to an anonymous Pachuca, the response was interesting. “We know that we aren’t accepted in this America society, so why try to conform? Why should I work so hard to fit in and be a good American when it is obvious that I stand out? I’m proud to be a Pachuca and if anyone has a problem with that, then they can come talk to me.” A threat that almost goes perfectly with the loud style that was worn by this anonymous individual.[vii]
Above: Pachucas gather and hang out [ix].
When asked why Pachucas have not been featured much in societal papers before, the answer was simple. “We are women.” Mrs. Cloe Villanueva said. “Showing us in the papers only gives us power and identity, and no one wants to do that, right?”[viii]
In the midst of this World War, this part of American society, if it is even American at all, is most definitely out of place. Whereas most men are off fighting for Uncle Sam and women are working hard and living simple lives, Pachucos are not participating in the war effort due to criminal records, and Pachucas are hardly working and are dressing differently than other women in America. No one knows how long this zoot suit trend will last, however, it is important for one to know that there is not just one gender wearing the suit, but rather two.
[i]. The New York Times, “28 Zoot Suiters Seized on Coast After Clashes With Service Men.” June 7, 1943: 15. http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1943/06/07/96563390.
[ii]. Elizabeth R Escobedo, From Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 5.
[iii]. Catherine S. Ramirez, Women in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Culture of Politics of Memory, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), 55-56.
[iv]. This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Ibid, 55-58.
[v]. This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Kathleen Campos-Banales, The Zoot Suits, 1940s, n.d.https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~campo22k/classweb/Zoot%20Suits/ (accessed October 20, 2015).
[vi]. This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Elizabeth R. Escobedo, “The Pachuca Panic: Sexual and Cultural Battlegrounds in World War II Los Angeles,” The Western Historical Quarterly, 2007: 134-136.
[vii]. This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Ibid, 134-136.
[viii]. This is a fictional quote, however, it is based upon research. Catherine S. Ramirez, Women in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Culture of Politics of Memory, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), 144-145.
[ix]. Picture taken from http://ofanotherfashion.tumblr.com/post/7800560321/these-women-all-wearing-sporty-trousers-are-on-a#_=_.
[x]. Picture taken from http://zootsuitriots.pbworks.com/w/page/30112432/Zoot%20Suit%20Riots.
[xi]. Cover Picture taken from http://www.vintag.es/2011/12/pictures-of-daily-life-in-los-angeles.html.