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A Poem Inspired by the Film Zoot Suit [1981] "Escape Through the Barrio Streets of Your Mind Through a Neighborhood of Memories"

In Zoot Suit, Luis Valdez weaves a story involving the real-life events of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial — when a group of young Mexican-Americans were charged with murder — resulting in the racially fueled Zoot Suit Riots throughout Los Angeles. In the play, Henry Reyna (inspired by real-life defendant Hank Leyvas) is a pachuco gangster and his gang, who were unfairly prosecuted, are thrown in jail for a murder they did not commit. The play is set in the barrios of Los Angeles in the early 1940s against the backdrop of the Zoot Suit Riots and World War II. As in the play, Edward James Olmos portrays El Pachuco, an idealized Zoot Suiter, who functions as narrator throughout the story and serves as Henry's conscience.




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