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In Zoot Suit, Luis Valdez weaves a story involving the real-life events of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial and the subsequent, racially fueled Zoot Suit Riots throughout Los Angeles. The trial followed the death of José Díaz, found unconscious near the “Sleepy Lagoon” reservoir in 1942, and resulted in the conviction, despite insufficient evidence, of several young Latinos charged with complicity in his murder. The fears and hostilities aroused by its coverage pitted servicemen stationed in Southern California, along with white civilians, against Mexican American and other minority youths. The white antagonists attacked and stripped teenagers and youths who wore zoot suits, with their long jackets and pegged pants, ostensibly because they considered the outfits, which utilized a considerable amount of fabric, unpatriotic during a time when rationing of fabric was required for the war effort. Set in the barrios of Los Angeles, the film features music by Daniel Valdez and Lalo Guerrero, the “father of Chicano music.” El Pachuco, an idealized Zoot Suiter, serves as narrator as well as the conscience of Henry Reyna, a character inspired by real-life defendant Hank Leyvas. The convictions obtained as a result of the murder trial were reversed on appeal in 1944. Presented as part of the Bank of America Free Thursday Film Series.
1981; Luis Valdez; English; 103 minutes; rated R.
Free ticketed event; tickets available one hour before show
National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM
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