Zoot Suit: The Production

Zoot Suit Riots A violent encounter on the streets of Los Angeles in 1943. The riot targeted Mexican American youth and terrorized the Mexican American community.

Chicano/Chicana Term reclaimed and redefined by a new generation of bilingual and bicultural Americans of Mexican descent during a 1960s grassroots political mobilization, known as the Chicano Movement. Prior to this, Chicano was a derogatory term used in reference to recently immigrated Mexicans in the United States. Before the 1960s the names Mexican, Mexican American and Hispanic were used interchangeably.

Caló A dialect with roots in zincaló (a Spanish gypsy dialect), Spanish and English. Spoken by Pachucos, Pachucas and Mexican Americans from poor and working class communities.

Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial (People v. Zamora) a legal case in 1942 investigating the murder of José Díaz. The trial indicted 22 members of the 38th Street Gang on murder charges. Though convictions were later appealed and overturned, the trial is still considered by many as one of the most flagrant misrepresentations of justice in the United States.

Zoot Suit Clothing stlye of the 1940s mostly worn by young, poor and working class Mexican American, African American and Jewish youth.

Pachuco/Pachuca Term used in reference to Mexican American youth who donned zoot suits and zoot suit-inspired clothing.

Playwright and Teatro

El Teatro Campesino A theatre company located in San Juan Bautista, California. This troupe is dedicated to addressing vital issues in the Latino community by using theatre as a form of political resistance and to celebrate Chicano culture.

Latino Term used to describe all people of Mexican and Latin American descent living both in and outside of the United States.

Corridos Mexican musical ballads that recount a historical event or story. Popularized during the 1910 Mexican Revolution.


Bracero Program A bi-national agreement between the United States and Mexico that granted Mexican workers a temporary farm worker contract in the United States. Currently, a similar program is being debated in the United States Senate.

Chávez Ravine A predominately Mexican American community that was viewed as an eyesore to non- Latino Angelenos. Residents of Chávez Ravine were illegally evicted by the City of Los Angeles in the 1950s in order to build Dodger Stadium. In this eviction, the city exercised eminent domain, their inherent power to seize private property for public use without the owner’s consent.

Assimilate The process of adopting the customs, language, and beliefs of a prevailing culture.

Acculturate The process of merging two cultures by adopting and integrating new cultural behaviors and customs with existing cultural attitudes and traditions.

World War II

Allies Countries allied against the Axis Powers in World War II. The allied countries included England, United States, France, Mexico, and the Soviet Union.

Battle of Bataan A bloody three-month battle in the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines during World War II. United States and Philippine forces fought
bravely against a well equipped Japanese invasion. Though the Allies were defeated, the long battle slowed Japanese forces and gave the Allies time to prepare for other attacks.

American G.I. Forum A congressionally chartered organization established in 1948 to lobby for the rights of Mexican American veterans.

G.I. Bill Also called the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. This bill provided returning veterans with home loans, college or vocational opportunities and unemployment compensation.

Axis Powers Countries who joined as a force against the Allies in World War II. The three major Axis powers included Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Trial and Riots

Neologism A new word, term, or phrase that creates new reference words out of older terminology.

Jingoism Extreme nationalism that shapes forceful and aggressive foreign policy.

Xenophobia Fear and hatred of foreigners and strangers.

Nativism An opposition to the presence of immigrants and immigrant flows into one’s country.

Racial profiling Making criminal accusations based on racial stereotypes of a particular racial or ethnic group.

Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee A grassroots defense committee comprised primarily of Mexican American community members and high profile actors such as Anthony Quinn, a child-hood family friend of the Leyvas family. Quinn drew in other actors such as Rita Hayworth and Orson Wells to the cause.

Yellow journalism Distorted news reports based on sensationalist story angles, biased opinions and scandal. Used as a way to boost newspaper sales and frame public opinion concerning people and events.