Part 2b: Mexican Americans in World War II and L.A. in the Zoot Suit Era


Activities and strategies to guide learners collaboratively through the text.

Directed Reading with Numbered Heads

Mexican Americans in World War II

1. How did Latinos/as contribute to the war effort? Give specific examples.

2. What was the highest rank and honor received by a military veteran of Mexican descent? Why is this significant?

3. After serving valiantly for the United States, how were service men and women of Mexican descent welcomed home?

4. Why was the American G. I. Forum established? Why was this important?

5. What benefits did these service men and women receive?

6. What are some facts that you learn about Latinos serving in the military during World War II?

 L.A. In The Zoot Suit Era

8. How did music contribute to a cultural renaissance on the streets of Los Angeles?

9. Who were some of the key people who contributed to this cultural renaissance in music and songwriting? What was their contribution?

10. Why is Lalo Guerrero considered to be one of the most influential and important Chicano musicians of the twentieth century? Explain.

11. How did partner dancing evolve over time?

¡Pachuco y Pachuca Yo!

12. Where did the term Pachuco come from?

13. Describe the Pachuco’s style of dress? What was the Bonaroo look?

14. Describe the Pachuca’s style of dress?

15. Why were Pachucos considered unpatriotic?

Compare/Contrast Matrix Part II

At this point, revisit the Compare/Contrast Matrix to complete the column for Pachuco and Pachuca after having read these sections. Students are encouraged to use any images provided or look on the internet for other resources to describe the Zoot Suit style of clothing.


Activities and strategies to extend the learner’s understanding beyond the text.

Reflection Log

First Entry ¡Pachuco y Pachuca Yo!

The Wartime Productions Board in 1942 attempted to cut back on fabric which directly targeted Zoot Suiters. Students may choose one of the following exercises to complete in their Reflection Log.

  1. Complete the following exercises.
        a. Describe your thoughts of what you think it would be like to wear a Zoot Suit as a young Pachuco or Pachuca in the 1940s.
        b. How did women defy traditional roles and expectations by wearing Zoot Suits?
        c. Describe how clothes today define your style and who you are.
  2. Think of an piece of clothing that is very popular for your age group. Write a newspaper article. Begin with the title, “Ban on _____________ Studied by City Council.” (i.e. Ban on Baggy Low Jeans Studied by City Council) Write a full page.

Second Entry Latinos in WWII

Choose one of the WWII Latino heroes. Write a five paragraph biography on his or her life. Use two resources and list your references. The paragraphs may be arranged in the following order:

    a. Introduction
    b. Early years
    c. WWII
    d. Awards/honors
    e. Later life/conclusion


During WWII, music and dance led the way to a cultural renaissance on the streets of Los Angeles. By listening to the following songs that were featured in Zoot Suit, Los Chucos Suaves and Vamos a Bailar, students will have the opportunity to learn more about Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero, the father of Chicano music and, the popular partner dancing to big band swing.

  1. Listen to Los Chucos Suaves. ( The lyrics are in Spanish. For an English translation click here)
      a. List the attributes of the Chicano big band swing.
      b. What message do the lyrics communicate?
      c. What is the style of the music?
      d. What instruments do you hear?
      e. What’s your overall impression?
      f. How did Lalo Guerrero influence big band swing?
  2. Watch the Saturday Night Dancescene from the Zoot Suit film.
      a. Describe the attributes of the dance style?
      b. What message does the dance communicate?
      c. How does the attire worn by the dancers influence the style?
      d. What’s your overall impression?
      e. How did both Cab Calloway and Germán Valdés influence partner style dancing?
  3. After listening to the song and watching the movie fill in the following matrix. Once the matrix is filled, choose one area, music or dance, and develop a poster that highlights all of your information.


Janet Johns, Abriendo Caminos
Migrant Education, Region XI
Curriculum for the Zoot Suit Discovery Guide, 2009