Zoot Suit

Zoot Suit Imagery

El Pachuco

El Pachuco is a mythical onstage manifestation of the zoot-suit-wearing Chicano icon. The very first stage direction says, "He is transformed into the very image of the pachuco myth, from his pork-pie hat to the tip of his four-foot watch chain." Pachuco's character and his attitude are determined as much by his clothes and image as they are by his performance onstage.


Throughout the play, newspapers make up important parts of the set. The curtain itself looks like a giant cover of a newspaper, Henry's mother Dolores hangs newspaper on a clothesline, newspapers are distributed by members of the press, flooding the stage, and even the jail cells are represented by stacks of newspapers on the stage.

Della's Testimony

In the course of Della's testimony, she goes from sitting on the witness stand to conjuring Sleepy Lagoon on the stage itself. The stage directions tell us, "We see a shimmering pattern of light on the floor growing to the music. It becomes the image of the Lagoon. As the music soars to a trumpet solo, Henry reaches out to Della, and she glides to her feet." Memory and present reality get absorbed into one another in this part of the play.

Pachuco stripped

By the end of the Zoot Suit riots, even the seemingly untouchable Pachuco is left without his ornate costume. Henry watches as people overpower Pachuco and take his clothes. The stage direction reads, "The only item of clothing on his body is a small loincloth. He turns and looks at Henry, with mystic intensity. He opens his arms as an Aztec conch blows, and he slowly exits backward with powerful calm into the shadows." It is an image of the humiliation of racial violence, but also of Pachuco's connection to an ancient mysticism, to a decolonized existence.