About that “Pachuco-type Coat” . . .

THIS SHOWED up this morning on one of my favorite Tumblrs: Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles: Scenes of the Lost City of Angels. It was, according to the image caption, a newspaper illustration from 1957.

I’m reminded of one of the stories I taught for a couple of semesters, a piece of reportage written in 1943 by Carey McWilliams. The piece, “The Zoot Suit Riots,” which goes into depth about the very active role local newspapers played in blurring the facts and re-directing blame — not to mention the power of language and the momentum of rumor — is one of the pieces that often fuels the most heated in-class discussion about collusion among the police, newspapers, the city’s elected officials.

Given that history, this image speaks volumes.

A snip from “The Zoot Suit Riots”:

Immediate responsibility for the outbreak of the riots must be placed upon the Los Angeles press and the Los Angeles police. For more than a year now, the press (and particularly the Hearst press) has been building up anti-Mexican sentiment in Los Angeles. Using the familiar Harlem crime-wave technique, the press has headlined every case in which a Mexican has been arrested, featured photographs of Mexicans dressed in zoot suits, checked back over the criminal records to “prove” that there has been an increase in Mexican “crime,” and constantly needled the police to make more arrests.

A link to part of the piece here.


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