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3 Zoot Suit Allies and the “Arizona Law” PRESS. Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. What you have before you is a dilemma of our times.The City of Los Angeles is caught in the midst of the biggest,most terrifying crime wave in its history.A crime wave that threatens to engulf the very foundations of our civic well-being.We are not only dealing with the violent death of one José Williams in a drunken barrio brawl. We are dealing with a threat and danger to our children, our families, our homes. —Zoot Suit In an interview with Arizona governor Jan Brewer, Andrew Golman asks: “When you signed Arizona’s immigration law in 2010, you cited concerns about growing border violence. But according to the F.B.I., violent crime dropped in Arizona almost 14 percent the previous year.” Brewer responds, “As the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Fifty thousand people in Mexico have been murdered. Puerto Peñasco, 60 miles south of our border, just had five people and a police officer killed. That is like part of Arizona, and it is spilling over into our state.” —New York Times Magazine N ight after night at the Mexico City production of Luis Valdez’s play Zoot Suit,when the character Smiley tells Hank that he is going to move his family to Arizona,the crowd of Mexican spectators “explodes in a unified thunderous response,” writes Alma Martinez, the Facebook voice behind the English and Spanish sites for the National Theater Company’s production of this Chicano play. Martinez, whose extensive, binational allegiance to Zoot Suit is central to this chapter, continues: “The play’s themes are resonating deeply and profoundly with Mexican audiences in light of the mess Zoot Suit Allies and the “Arizona Law” 79 in Arizona” (May 6, 2010). Even before the passage of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law SB1070 in the spring of 2010—“La Ley Arizona,”as it was often called in Mexico—many people familiar with the plans to stage Zoot Suit in Mexico, as was to be expected, had drawn the connection between present-­ day negative sentiments toward immigrants and those of the 1940s, when Zoot Suit takes place. Yet banter on Facebook focused more on the play as a celebration of Chicano culture, and as a way for Mexico City residents to (finally) understand the Chicano experience. Indeed, one California contributor to the popular Facebook pages wrote that the production of the play at the Teatro Juan Ruiz Alarcón, in the theater complex of the National Autonomous University of Mexico,would be a “history lesson”for Mexicans about their “Carnales in the Norte!”(Apr. 12, 2010, comment posted Apr. 25, 2010). One part of this history lesson is about schizophrenia in wartime, when young Mexican Americans were welcome in the U.S. armed services but were beaten in the streets or jailed for expressing indifference toward mainstream, clean-cut America—or oftentimes simply for being of Mexican descent. It is also about migration: of the many migrants to Los Angeles (and California in general) in the years before the war,two groups—in addition to Japanese immigrants —stand out: Mexicans and so-called Okies, though the latter actually came from a variety of states,including Arizona.Mexican migration to California increased dramatically with the 1910 Mexican Revolution; migration from the other U.S. states was significant in the 1920s, with many people looking for a new life and pursuing a dream—even if that dream was modest. In the 1930s, migration from other U.S. states to California resulted in large part from the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, human movement notably fictionalized in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and portrayed in numerous photographs that document Depression-era poverty and the desperate travel necessary to find a means,however demeaning,to feed one’s family (Gregory 8–9).James N.Gregory writes about the “push”and “pull”factors that drove this migration: If the initial migration to California can be understood as a conventional westward trek by moderately well-off opportunity seekers, what followed during the Depression decade seemed quite different—indeed different enough to attract international attention. The volume was not the critical distinction. At least 315,000 and perhaps as many as 400,000 Southwesterners [from Oklahoma , Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri] moved west during the 1930s, compared with the 250,000 to 300,000 who had slipped unnoticed...


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