In my analysis of the play “Zoot Suit” the culture around this period and time, and the life of a major leader of the zoot suit era in Luis Valdez. I plan to evaluate the civilization or DE civilization depending on how you look at it that takes place in and around the “zoot suit” period in history. I also want to show the relevancy of Luis Valdez’s life and how it relates to the times and actions which he writes about in his play ‘Zoot Suit.” With him being such an important part of bringing Chicano theatre into the eyes of Americans. I believe it is important to show his life and upbringing and what made him feel that this is what needed to be brought to the public through his plays.
First I would like to start by giving a little background on the author of “Zoot Suit.” Luis Miguel Valdez was born on June 26, 1940 in Delano, California. His Parents were migrant farm workers who would move all over California, following harvests. Somewhere around the age of seven Luis’s family finally settled in San Jose, California.
As a youth Luis would take small roles in the school plays. This accompanied with seeing his parents and other migrant farm workers working long grueling days in the hot sun for very little pay, made him want to show the world, the “Latino Experience” and all that entails. “I took what I most feared, the thing I was most ashamed of, and turned it into something I could write about," he told students at San Diego State University in 2000.
After graduating from high school in San Jose, Luis attended college at San Jose University where he wrote his first play. “The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa” which kicked of his career as a writer.
The next important step in Luis’s life came in 1965 when he teamed up with Caesar Chavez, after a short time being with San Francisco Mime Troupe, which is an improv comedy show that focuses on political satire. He teamed up with Caesar to raise funds for the grape boycott and farmworkers strike him and Chavez had organized to shed light on the plight of migrant farm workers and the mistreatment of them. I believe this is to be huge part of what led Valdez to writing all of his plays and is view of how Chicanos should stand up and be represented for what they were put through.
One interesting fact at least in my eyes was that he wrote the script for la bamba which happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time. When finding his information out, I at first could not see how this correlated to the style of writings he had done presently. Being as they were more on the rougher side. So I rewatched this film and saw many key parts that probably related to his life greatly. Such as the opening scene when they harvesting what I believe are apricots, just like the work his parents did. A part of the movie that stood out to me which was probably very subtle to everyone else is when they made him shorten and more or less “Americanize” his name from Ricardo Valenzuela to Ritchie Valens. Which I feel was a great expression of the time and how race was such a hot topic that they could have performers of different races, but the white media wanted it hidden for the most part.
One interesting thing that I personally enjoyed is the way the play bounced back and forth between Spanish and English. That I feel was a big part of representing the new era of Mexican Americans. How the language barrier was beginning to be broken, The Hispanics in Los angles were speaking and understanding more probably out of necessity I would assume. Having to understand and interpret the racism that was plaguing their race by the establishment and white media.
This then leads me into the play we read titled “zoot suit.” This play is a fictionalized account of the Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial in which several Latino youths were charged with a murder they did not commit. The main character is Henry Reyna who is inspired by the real life defendant Henry Leyvas.