Answer just one of the two questions below in a paragraph or more, and then include the REFLECTION (another paragraph or more) described below them. The first two questions take a comparative race & ethnicity approach to the zoot suit youth culture by looking at the larger social and cultural conditions experienced by young people of color in the U.S. in the early and mid-20th Century. The third question provides a space for students to be creative and share their experiences of participating in a youth culture.
- According to Luis Alvarez, what is the social context or connection between African-Americans and Mexican-Americans adopting the zoot suit style in the early 1940s and the idea of having a sense of dignity? In other words, what were the social conditions that influenced their decision to express themselves in this manner, through what Alvarez calls “body politics”?
- According to Catherine S. Ramirez, what was the significance for young Mexican-American women in the 1940s in dressing as a “pachuca” and being out in public? What were the specific social and cultural barriers that they confronted both outside their communities and within them?
REFLECTION: Based on which question you chose to answer, how does what you’ve learned about the Zoot Suit youth culture differ from or present a different perspective than what you may be familiar with from what you were taught in high school or from old Hollywood moves and American pop culture, i.e. swing music, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The Mask, etc. Do you see any parallels between the histories of the youth cultures of the 1940s and the youth cultures and lived experiences of young people in the U.S. today?