In the midst of World War II and international and domestic turbulences and crisis, the Zoot Suit riots broke out. For a full ten days, from June 3rd to June 13th, 1943, the rioters expressed their discontent at race relations in Los Angeles. …
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The value of Mauricio Mazon's The Zoot-Suit Riots: The Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation, emanates from his explication of the underlying meaning and symbolic representations of the Zoot Suite Riots. Indeed, even while conceding to the fact that Mazon often fails to provide readers with the necessary historical data concerning the events of the riots or with a critical discussion and analysis of its causal factors, his analysis of the riots and his critical discussion of the reasons why the riots attained a status of such historical importance and meaning, invaluably contributes to both an understanding and appreciation of the Zoot Suit riots of Los Angeles in 1943.
Mazon's account of the Zoot Suit riots significantly contributes to readers' understanding of the socio-political environment which pervaded in the United States in 1943. In brief, the Zoot Suit riots were instigated by military personnel's attack on a group of Mexican-American youth, distinguished by their clothing. At that time, the phenomenon of zoot suiters, or Mexican American youth who wore unique clothing, referred to as zoot suits, and zoot suit gangs, began to impose itself upon the Californian socio-political landscape. Due to the fact that they set themselves so far apart from societal norms and were shrouded, if not in mystery, then in ambiguity, the Zoot Suiters were increasingly regarded with suspicion by the rest of the population. As Mazon clarifies, their very presence incited psychological discomfort and communicated a sense of social unease. This is not just because the zoot suiters emerged from within an ethnic minority group but because, in their embrace of zoot suitism, Chicano youth were publicly declaring their disassociation from society and rejecting mainstream integration. They were, in other words, and as Mazon clarifes, defying societal norms and the majority culture, quite possible in reaction to the majority's rejection of them and the dominant culture's continued and persistent refusal to give credence to Chicano youth culture.
Zoot Suiters were, as Mazon quite clearly explains, Chicano youth gang members who defied popular culture and refused to integrate into Californian society. They symbolised defiance and rejection of Anglo-Saxon culture. Given, however, the fact that the Zoot Suiters were no more violent than other youth gangs and no more a danger to society than were others, the reaction which they instigated is somewhat at odds with that which they actually represented. Mazon concedes to this last point when he writes that "the ritual in the Zoot Suit riots was more important than the reality" (1). In other words, the military personnel and civilians who had participated in the attack against the zoot suiters were not attacking that which this group actually symbolised but that which they were assumed to symbolise. They were assumed to symbolise a rejection of the United States and its founding principles and in their donning of a distinguishable uniform, were somewhat reminiscent of Nazism. Indeed, they became the quintessential bogeyman, inspiring conspiracy theorists to voice their belief that the zoot suiters intended to take over the country. It is irrelevant that none of this was supported by the reality of this group of Chicano youth because, as Mazon
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