Zoot Suit: Important quotes with page – 2752 words

Zoot Suit: Important quotes with page

1. “I speak as an actor on the stage. The Pachuco was existential for he was an actor in the streets, both profane and reverential. ” (Act I, Page 6) As El Pachuco introduces the play to the audience, he draws a parallel between his own performance as an actor in the play and the pachuco persona as performative. Pachucos wear a specific costume that gives them the confidence to transform into bold, proud, young Chicano men who live according to pachuco rules and ethics. This is also a moment when El Pachuco reminds audiences that they are watching a play.

Much like Bertolt Brecht’s alienation technique, this allows audiences to maintain distance and make logical decisions about the characters’ ethics, rather than emotional ones.

2. “Muy patriotic, eh? […] Off to fight for your country. […] This ain’t your country. Look what’s happening all around you. The Japs have sewed up the Pacific. Rommel is kicking ass in Egypt but the mayor of L. A. has declared all-out war on Chicanos. […] Is that what you want to go out and die for? Wise up. These bastard paddy cops have it in for you. You’re a marked man. They think you’re the enemy.” (Act I, Page 10)

The use of Chicanos in the U. S. military is a repeated theme in Luis Valdez’s work. He criticizes the United States government for utilizing Mexican- American soldiers while still treating them as foreigners who cannot receive full rights. El Pachuco scoffs at Henry’s patriotism as naive. He references other countries who are fighting over land, framing the campaign against Mexican Americans in Los Angeles as a colonialist battle.

3. “I hear you pachucos wear these monkey suits as a kind of armor. Is that right? How’s it work? ” (Act I, Page 13) Although Sgt. Smith is mocking Henry, this is, in one sense, an apt description of the zoot suit’s function. Smith’s meaning associates the suit with violence, as the word “armor” implies that pachucos are an army fighting a war. This defines the pachuco culture as one of violence, which is a racist view. However, the suit does function as a sort of social armor. It stands for Chicano pride in a social hierarchy that places Mexican Americans on a lesser tier.

4. “Que mamada, Hank. That’s exactly what the play needs right now. Two more Mexicans killing each other. Watch…everybody’s looking at you. ” (Act I, Page 29) According to El Pachuco, two more Mexicans killing each other is what the audience has paid to see. This implies that the audience secretly wants confirmation that Mexican people are violent. If Mexican people are violent, then fear of them as a threat is justified. Although there are two young Mexican men trying to kill each other, El Pachuco makes a powerful statement by stopping it and removing it from the narrative.

5. “Well, at least you’re not one of the lumpen proletariat. […] Let’s just say that you’re a classic social victim. ” (Act I, Page 34) The lumpenproletariat is a Marxist term for an oppressed class of people who are not conscious of their own oppression. Alice is saying that Henry is a classic social victim who is aware of the ways that society is rigged against him.

6. “Something inside you craves the punishment, ese. The public humiliation. And the human sacrifice. Only there’s no more pyramids, carnal. Only the gas chamber. ” (Act I, Page 36) The reference to human sacrifice and pyramids connects to Aztec culture, implying that the desire to sacrifice himself is in his blood.

However, this statement also comments on internalized racism, which causes Henry to believe that in order to be worthy of social advancement and Americanness, he must prove himself by offering his body to the war as a sacrifice. But as El Pachuco points out, there is no honorable self-sacrifice here, only a criminal’s execution.

7. “Your Honor, I can only infer that the Prosecution…is trying to make these boys look disreputable, like mobsters. […] You are trying to exploit the fact that these boys look foreign in appearance! Yet clothes like these are being worn by kids all over America. ” (Act I, Pages 37-38)

George centers his argument on the fact that Mexican Americans are Americans, not foreigners. When the judge rules that they can’t cut their hair or wear clean clothes, George accuses the judge of forcing them to maintain an appearance that will spark the media-created bias associated with Mexican Americans that frames them as dangerous outsiders who are trying to invade an American way of life.

8. “Maybe wanting too much out of life, see? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this feeling like there’s a big party going on someplace and I’m invited but I don’t know how to get there.

And I want to get there so bad, I’ll even risk my life to make it. Sounds crazy, huh? ” (Act I, Page 41) Henry is articulating the feeling of helplessness associated with being underprivileged. As a young man who grew up in the barrio, his options for advancement in mainstream society have been limited due to prejudice and racism. He is so desperate to move forward in his life, to find the party that he knows exists, that he’ll put his life on the line in the Navy.

9. “We are dealing with a threat and danger to our children, our families, our home. Set these pachucos free, and you shall unleash the forces of anarchy and destruction in our society. Set these pachucos free and you will turn them into heroes. ” (Act I, Pages 47-48) In the Press’s closing argument for the prosecution, he uses language that frames pachucos as an infestation. Much like Hitler compared Jewish people to cockroaches and rats, The Press describes Mexican Americans as a destructive force that cannot be allowed back into society.

10. “I have tried my best to defend what is most precious in our American society–a society now at war against the forces of racial intolerance and totalitarian injustice. ” (Act I, Page 48) In his closing argument, George uses the terms “racial intolerance” and “totalitarian injustice” while speaking to a group of people who live during the time of Adolf Hitler. Since the play was written in the 1970s, well after the end of World War II, the audience would know the full depth of the Holocaust even if the characters would not.

11. “The prosecution has tried to lead you to believe that they are all some kind of inhuman gangsters. Yet they are Americans. Find them guilty of anything more serious than a juvenile bout of fisticuffs, and you will condemn all American youth.

Find them guilty of murder, and you will murder the spirit of racial justice in America. ” (Act I, Page 48) George works to re-humanize a group of people that has been dehumanized in the press. He defines them clearly as juveniles, no different from any American youth. The precedent of condemning the defendants based on racial bias rather than evidence would have repercussions that would reverberate in the United States justice system indefinitely.

12. “Haven’t you learned yet? […] Not to expect justice when it isn’t there. No court in the land’s going to set you free. Learn to protect your loves by binding them in hate, ese! Stop hanging on to false hopes. The moment those hopes come crashing down, you’ll find yourself on the ground foaming at the mouth. ” (Act II, Pages 64-65)

El Pachuco often voices Henry’s doubts. When Henry becomes optimistic, El Pachuco speaks his pessimistic fears. He tells Henry to harden himself preemptively, to learn to hate what he loves so that it doesn’t hurt so much when his hopes are dashed. These doubts are grounded in reality, but not always true, as evidenced by the group’s eventual acquittal.

13. “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea. […] Serious rioting broke out here today as flying squadrons of Marines and soldiers joined the Navy in a new assault on zooter-infested districts. ” (Act II, Page 66) The Press’s language to announce the Zoot Suit Riots describes them as a righteous act of war by good American servicemen. In this statement, the Marines and the Navy have joined forces in the fight against evil. Their attacks become an “assault” on districts that are “zooter-infested,” as though pachucos are rats or cockroaches.

14. “The Press distorted the very meaning of the word ‘zoot suit. ’ All it is for you guys is another way to say Mexican. But the idea of the original chuco was to look like a diamond, to look sharp, hip, bonaroo, finding a style of urban survival in the rural skirts and outskirts of the brown metropolis of Los, cabron. ” (Act II, Page 67)

El Pachuco describes how the zoot suit functions as a point of Chicano pride and method of survival to a group of military men who are about to attack him. The “brown metropolis of Los” describes a city that, at its roots, belongs to indigenous people. El Pachuco stresses that pachuco culture is specific and not synonymous with “Mexican” as the press has constructed it.

15. “You are trying to outdo the white man in exaggerated white man’s clothes! ” (Act II, Page 67) The Press mocks the zoot suit by saying that it is just an appropriation of what white men wear. This implies that the pachucos don’t have the creativity or intelligence to formulate their own unique culture, and that Mexican Americans don’t have their own rich culture to draw from. This statement also suggests that what pachucos really want is to be white, which is antithetical to the pachuco’s pride in being Chicano.

16. “El Pachuco stands. The only item of clothing on his body is a small loincloth. He turns and looks at Henry with mystic intensity. He opens his arms as an Aztec conch blows, and he slowly exits backward with powerful calm into the shadows. ” (Act II, Page 68) If the zoot suit represents social armor, the threats and jeers by the press and white servicemen suggest that there is no substance underneath, that they will be vulnerable once stripped of their suits. However, El Pachuco demonstrates that underneath contemporary pachuco culture are the strong roots of the Aztecs.

17. “I never have been able to accept one person pushing another around…pushing me around! Can’t you see that’s why I’m here? Because I can’t stand it happening to you. Because I’m a Jew, goddammit! I have been there…I have been there! If you lose, I lose. ” (Act II, Page 71) Henry has demanded to know why Alice, as a white woman, has become emotionally involved in a case that doesn’t affect her personally. His pachuco machismo will not accept pity,nor a white person who wants to use him as a political pawn. Alice tries to articulate her personal connection to the case, finally expressing that her Jewishness has made her a target, too.

18. “Oh, Hank. All the love and hate it’s taken to get us together in this lousy prison room. Do you realize only Hitler and the Second World War could have accomplished that? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. ” (Act II, Page 72) Alice is placing the racist fight against zoot-suiters within the patriotic social structure of World War II-era America. Criticisms against pachucos have centered on calling them un-American, a concept that became particularly abhorrent and threatening during wartime. Ironically, Hitler’s hatred led to the love between Henry and Alice, a sentiment that is both tragic and hopeful.

19. “It’s good to see you again, ese. I thought I’d lost you. ” (Act II, Page 75) When Henry returns to the barrio, El Pachuco is waiting for him. El Pachuco represents the myth and spirit of the pachuco persona, but also Henry’s old self. Seeing him again, intact, offers hope that Henry can find himself as he was before the trauma of the arrest, imprisonment, and trial.

20. “But life ain’t that way, Hank. The barrio’s still out there, waiting and wanting. The cops are still tracking us down like dogs. The gangs are still killing each other, Families are barely surviving, and there in your own backyard, life goes on. ” (Act II, Page 76) El Pachuco tells Henry and the audience that a happy ending for the Sleepy Lagoon defendants is only a small victory in a much larger battle. For 1978 audiences, this was a reminder that these problems continue, even thirty- five years after the action of the play.

21. “The Sleepy Lagoon ain’t shit. I saw real lagoons in those islands, ese–killing Japs! I saw some pachucos go out there that are never coming back. ” (Act II, Page 79) Describing his time with the Marines, Rudy reveals that enlisting in the military isn’t the golden ticket that Henry seemed to think it was before the arrest and that life as a pachuco doesn’t prepare you to kill and die. It minimizes the public perception of pachucos as dangerous, hardened criminals and reframes them as what they are: young people.

22. “I went to the pinche [trans. damned] show with Bertha, all chingon [trans. badass] in your tachuche [trans. zoot suit], ese. I was wearing your zoot suit, and they got me. Twenty sailors, Marines. We were up in the balcony. They came down from behind.

They grabbed me by the neck and dragged me down the stairs, kicking and punching and pulling my grena [trans. hair]. They dragged me out into the streets… and all the people watched while they stripped me. ” (Act II, Page 81) The assault against Rudy makes him realize his worst fears. As a young man who has lived in his brother’s shadow and is wearing his brother’s suit, the servicemen attacked him and showed the world that he was naked underneath. Although there is no shame in being overpowered by a mob, for a teenager who sought his leader brother’s approval, humiliation and degradation are worse than prison or potential death overseas.

This shows that the goal of these attacks was not to put a threat in its place, but to break pachucos down as a people who had dared to feel proud of their race and heritage.

23. “That’s the way you see it, ese. But there’s other ways to end this story. ” (Act II, Page 82) Although the actual ending of Henry Leyvas’s (the man on whom Henry Reynas was based) life was as unfortunate as the first ending given by The Press, El Pachuco is emphasizing that the sad finish of a single life does not doom every young Chicano man.

He is using his power as an omnipotent narrator to stop the story at a moment when Henry, freshly released from prison, has options. The second option, joining the military, leads to a prestigious honor but also his death. This is unsurprising given Valdez’s views on the U. S. military’s exploitation of minorities. In the third option, however, Henry may not achieve a higher station in life,though his children do.

24. “Henry Reyna married Della in 1948 and they have five kids, three of them now going to the university, speaking calo [trans. pachuco slang] and calling themselves Chicanos. ” (Act II, Page 83) In this final option for Henry’s life, Henry has the potential to leave five different powerful legacies. Two of his children might remain in the barrio to improve the lives of Chicanos who live there.

Three of his children attend college and maintain their Chicano pride. In the first choice, he fulfills the prophecy set forth by the media that a pachuco is a criminal with no hope. The second choice brings the glory he seeks but he isn’t alive to enjoy it. This third choice allows him to watch his children thrive and succeed, and to live in hope that society can change.

25. “Henry Reyna…El Pachuco…The man…the myth…still lives. ” (Act II, Page 83) In the final line of the play, El Pachuco explains that endless incarnations of Henry exist. Henry, with his alter-ego, El Pachuco, is a Chicano everyman. We cannot change the world for Henry Leyvas, because he died before the play was written. But we can work toward change for every Henry who came after him.

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