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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Essay on "Los Vendidos"

“Los Vendidos” is a play that depicts the stereotypes which the society has on Latinos.  Its goal is to awaken the hearts and minds of the American people and encourage them to re-examine and re-evaluate the biases and prejudices they have on Latinos.  The play offers for sale four stereotypical representatives of the Mexican society: the Farmer, the Pachuco, the Revolutionary and the Mexican American. (Norine Polio 2)  Los Vendidos is the kind of play that will make the viewers laugh not only because it is funny but because what it says is real.  (Saul Elbein 1)  The story stings a little because it is directed at every American who holds similar view.

Among the characters in the play, I chose the Pachuco or the gangster character.  A Pachuco was described as someone who is built for speed and low-riding city life.  A Pachuco is someone who is always seen riding a car with dark-tinted windshield and has dual exhausts.   A Pachuco always carries a knife which he uses as tool for his survival.  A Pachuco is a person who is always being hunted by the police and when he is arrested he does not give up without a fight.  A Pachuco also speaks little English but he can only utter cuss words and curses which are directed to almost anybody.  A Pachuco is someone who drinks a lot of beer and wine.  He is also someone who smokes marijuana and sniffs glue.  A Pachuco is also someone who steals for a living. 

The stereotyping of Mexicans as Pachucos has historical significance.  In an interview with Luis Valdez, he highlighted the importance of the Pachucos in American history.  He said that in the past the Pachucos were branded as rebels who refused to give in, bend or admit that they are wrong. (Nicolas Kanellos 98)  The Pachucos are also degenerates and considered incorrigible.

History was not kind to the Pachucos.  During the 1930s and the 1940s the Pachucos were associated with streets rebels and bandits who wore zoot suits or long drape jackets.  The Los Angeles Department branded them as delinquents and suspected them to be responsible for the juvenile crime wave in Los Angeles during the 1930s.  During this time, the press was very critical of the zoot suiters or the Pachucos.  The Los Angeles Times was one of the newspapers responsible for the anti-Mexican sentiment.  The Los Angeles Times headlined every case in which a Mexican was arrested.  It featured photographs of Mexicans dressed in zoot suits and announced that there has been an increase in crime rates because of Mexicans. As a result, the public develop fear and hatred against the Mexicans.  According to Carey McWilliams “The constant repetition of the term pachuco or zoot suit, coupled with Mexican names and pictures of Mexicans, had the effect of convincing the public that all Mexican were Pachucos and all Pachucos were criminals; ergo, all Mexicans were criminals.”(McWilliams 2)

In the light of this racial prejudice and bias, several Mexican-American Pachucos were arrested for the crime against a certain Jose Diaz which led to their immediate conviction despite the absence of evidence of the prosecution.  It was only in October 1944 that the US District Court of Appeals overturned the conviction because of miscarriage of justice.  This racial prejudice and bias against the Mexican-Americans culminated in the Zoot Suit Riot of 1943. 

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