Discussion Points

L.A. in the Zoot Suit Era

  1. Describe the significance of music and dance to Mexican American youth during a time of war. In what ways have current wars in the world inspired musicians today?
  2. Why do you think wartime was a period of such abundant artistic inspiration?

The Hip Style of Caló

  1. Pachucas and Pachucos created words whose meanings changed everyday. What are some words that you have invented or use with family and friends, which are not considered part of a specific standard language?
  2. Use the above terms and phrases to write a sentence using at least three Caló words and phrases.


  1. Describe the obstacles faced by Mexican American youth growing up in the 1940s.
  2. Describe how you can relate to some of the obstacles that Mexican American youth faced.
  3. How do you think people of Chávez Ravine felt as they were evicted from their homes?
  4. Describe the significance of the Bracero Program for both the United States and Mexico. What were the pros and cons of the worker agreement?

Mexican Americans in World War II

  1. How do you think women felt about going back to their role as homemakers after having worked in jobs considered “men’s work”?
  2. What do you think it was like for Mexican American World War II veterans to come back from defending their countries and receive discriminatory treatment in the United States?
  3. Describe the important contributions of Latinos in World War II.
  4. Research and describe the role Latinos play in current ongoing wars.

Sleepy Lagoon Trial and Zoot Suit Riots

  1. The purpose of the legal system is to guarantee people a fair and equal trial where they are innocent until proven guilty. What issues came into play in the original ruling of the court and the sentencing of the 38th Street Gang?
  2. What are some parallels between the racial profiling experienced by Mexican-American youth in the 1940s and current perceptions of underrepresented groups in our society? Think of the ongoing “War on Terrorism” and the subsequent Patriot Act.
  3. Discuss how the Zoot Suit riots were handled by Los Angeles Police and government officials. Do you think that the initial lack of intervention in 1943 could happen today?
  4. Which newspapers, magazines or websites might be considered yellow journalism today?
  5. Describe current events that have been sensationalized by the news, how were portrayed by the media and the implications of these representations.

L.A. Today

  1. Is Zoot Suit relevant today?
  2. Is there any similarity between 1940s Pachucos and gang culture today?
  3. Within gang culture today, do women play a more prominent role?
  4. Has the judicial and economic condition of Chicano and Chicana youth changed since 1940s?
  5. What would need to happen for Zoot Suit to be relevant only as a historical representation?