The Zoot Suit Riots Cruise brings back ‘a forgotten era’

History lessons come in many forms. For Art Zamora, they’re carried by classic chassis rolling down the streets of Los Angeles.

“You have to remember your culture and your roots,” said the co-organizer of the Zoot Suit Riots Cruise. “You have to learn your history.”

The history is painful: In 1943 Los Angeles, over a span of 10 days in June, U.S. military men attacked young Latino men in zoot suits, who called themselves pachucos.

For Zamora, seeing those dressed as pachucos cruising is a reminder of the perseverance within the Latino community. “So we don’t forget how we got this far,” he says. “It’s almost a forgotten era.”

Only three cars took part in the first organized cruise, in 2018. The next year, more than 100 cars showed up. Now, organizers are expecting the event to grow.

“Every day, se va tapando mas (it keeps getting bigger),” said co-organizer Pedro Haro, who also goes by “Chato.” “Somos como una esponja (we’re like a sponge),” he said, talking about how learning through cruising. “Es bien bonito (it’s quite beautiful).”

A classic car crosses over the 4th Street Bridge into downtown Los Angeles.

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times)

The cruise was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. This year’s event was held Sunday. Participants met at Commerce Center before cruising along Whittier Boulevard. They crossed 4th Street Bridge and drove into downtown Los Angeles before cruising Broadway. Some of the cars then went on to Elysian Park.

The car has a way of changing the driver, Haro said.

“It’s like we’re in a tuxedo,” he said of the classic vehicles. “You can wear some shorts and sandals, but once you get in a tuxedo you keep your manners on the up and up. You can’t be lounging.”

Cruise participants share a laugh in Elysian Park.

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times)

A lowrider cruises through Elysian Park for the Zoot Suit Riots Cruise.

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times)

Dressing the part, clockwise from top left, are: Idalia Sanchez, Gustavo Jimenez, Veronica Robles, and a man watching cars cruise behind the Commerce Center in East Los Angeles.

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times)

Cars cruise along Broadway in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday.

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times)

Tania Teyacapan came from San Diego to attend the Zoot Suit Riots Cruise in Los Angeles.

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times )

It’s all in the details: A closeup shows a wheel spat on a vehicle cruising in Sunday’s event.

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times)

Pedro “Chato” Haro, posing for a portrait in Elysian Park, says the cruise helps in teaching the history of Latinos in L.A.: “Es bien bonito (it’s quite beautiful).”

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times)

Cars cruise on Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles, commemorating an earlier era.

(Steve Saldivar / Los Angeles Times)

More visual journalism from the Los Angeles Times.

Read More

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on print
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on print
Share on email