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Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A. / Edition 1

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Overview

The notorious 1942 "Sleepy Lagoon" murder trial in Los Angeles concluded with the conviction of seventeen young Mexican American men for the alleged gang slaying of fellow youth Jose Diaz. Just five months later, the so-called Zoot Suit Riot erupted, as white soldiers in the city attacked minority youths and burned their distinctive zoot suits. Eduardo Obregon Pagan here provides the first comprehensive social history of both the trial and the riot and argues that they resulted from a volatile mix of racial and social tensions that had long been simmering.

In reconstructing the lives of the murder victim and those accused of the crime, Pagan contends that neither the convictions (which were based on little hard evidence) nor the ensuing riot arose simply from anti-Mexican sentiment. He demonstrates instead that a variety of pre-existing stresses, including demographic pressures, anxiety about nascent youth culture, and the war effort all contributed to the social tension and the eruption of violence. Moreover, he recovers a multidimensional picture of Los Angeles during World War II that incorporates the complex intersections of music, fashion, violence, race relations, and neighborhood activism.

Drawing upon overlooked evidence, Pagan concludes by reconstructing the murder scene and proposes a compelling theory about what really happened the night of the murder.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] masterful volume. . . . One of the most comprehensive and authoritative accounts of both the Sleepy Lagoon murder and the subsequent trials and of the Zoot Suits riots of the early 1940s. . . . Succeeds admirably."
Latin Americanist

"Smart, insightful and evocative."
Australasian Journal of American Studies

Los Angeles Times Book Review
A brilliant and ultimately persuasive effort to explain the function of music and fashion in shaping how Americans see themselves, then and now. . . . Pagan has made an important and illuminating contribution to [the] body of [Chicano] scholarship."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807854945
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 11/24/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 1,234,494
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Eduardo Obregon Pagan is associate professor and chair of the Department of American Studies at Arizona State University West.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue: The Sleepy Lagoon Mystery 1
Pt. I Make Noise Broken Windows
1 Introduction 7
2 Genealogy of a Crisis 19
3 The Life and Times of Jose Diaz 45
Pt. II La Vida Dura
4 The People v. Zammora et al 71
5 Dangerous Fashion 98
6 The Significance of the Pachuco as a General Category and Conception 126
Pt. III Shouting Curses on the Street
7 Wars of Resistance 145
8 Days of Riot 167
Pt. IV The Violent Poetry of the Times
9 Uneasy Truce 191
Epilogue: Who Killed Jose Diaz? 221
App A Note on Terminology and Methodology 229
Notes 233
Bibliography 283
Index 305
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