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Zoot Suit Riots 75th Anniversary June 3 to 10, 1943 Culture, History and Latino Theater

From June 3 to June 10, 1943, servicemen stationed at the Chavez Ravine naval station randomly beat up young Mexican American and Black men throughout Los Angeles. The sailors brutalized their victims and left them lying in the streets; police and sheriffs then arrested victims instead of their attackers. Racist newspapers viewed victims as the problem.

As Zoot Suit Riots spread from Chavez Ravine to Boyle Heights to Watts and subsided in June 1943, Governor Earl Warren ordered a citizens’ committee to investigate and determine the cause of the riots. The committee determined racism and discrimination to be a central cause of the riots. At the same time, L.A. Mayor Fletcher Bowron came to his own conclusion: Racial prejudice was not a factor. The riots were caused by juvenile delinquents. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez opened in L.A. in 1978, and became the first Chicano and Mexican American play on Broadway in 1979.

In 1973, Miguel Piñero, playwright, actor, and cofounder of the Nuyorican Poets Café, received the New York Drama Critics award for Best American Play and an Obie Award for his prison drama Short Eyes

Cubano Nilo Cruz became the first Latino playwright to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2003 for Anna in the Tropics. Puerta Riqueña Quiara Alegría Hudes received the 2012 Pulitzer for the play Water by the Spoonful. NeoRican Lin-Manuel Miranda received the Prize in 2016 for Hamilton, only the ninth musical to receive a Pulitzer.

Great Latino theater includes Columbiano John Leguizamo, Chicano and Salvadoreño Culture Clash, and more.