Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rollover text informationAmerican Experience
Zoot Suit Riots
The Film and More
Film Description
Transcript
Primary Sources
Further Reading

Special Features
Timeline
Gallery
People and Events
Teacher's Guide
Visite nuestro sitio de web en Español

spacer above content
Primary Sources: Letter from Chepe Ruiz to Alice McGrath

May 18, 1944.

Alice Darling,

For fear that I could not transcribe a neat, careful and logical (?) letter to you, I asked my very good friend, Mr. X, to handle this pleasing chore for me. If the result proves successful you can thank me - if the result proves disastrous, lay the blame on Mr. X.

Thanks very much for your very encouraging letter. I am anxiously awaiting the visit from the lovely Miss Florence so that I can get that blow by blow description. I assume she was at the hearing so that I can get a first hand picture.

Thanks very much for arranging that visit from my mother. Now, you can understand that I am fickle. That is my true confession. I have another love, beside your self -- that for my mother. To become serious, I shall give you a blow by blow of that first visit.

After the greetings, kisses and hugs, my mother spoke of the future. For a clearer picture I repeat the conversation verbatim:

MOTHER : Chepe, I know it won't be long before you will be back with us, and that brings me to an important subject.

CHEPE : What is it, mother?

MOTHER : I gave the matter a great deal of thought and I know that you trust my better judgement.

CHEPE : What is it, mother?

MOTHER : In arriving at the conclusion I did, I resurrected the past and tried to psychoanalyze the reason for the actions that brought in the present trouble and in that way I concluded a decision that I am sure will meet with your approval. (Note: Substitute the word arrived for conclusion.)

CHEPE : Yes mother, what is it?

MOTHER: Just a minute, son. I also took into consideration the cases of your co-defendants and I am of the opinion that what I am about to say affects them as well. However, not being a mother to them, and the subject being so very personal I shall discuss it with you and if you care to take it up with them, -why- use your own judgement.

CHEPE : Yes mother, what is it?

MOTHER: And, Chepe, I don't want you to answer the question immediately. Think it over. I will be here for a few days so I shall not press you for an answer until you give it mature consideration. As a matter of fact, I would rather you take all the time you can possibly spare to think the matter over. The situation in this, we are guided, to an extent, by the food we eat; by the company we keep; by the clothes we wear, by the thoughts we think; by the pleasures we seek; don't you think?

CHEPE : Yes mother, what is it?

MOTHER : As an example, the natives of deep Africa think alike by reason of the environment and the matter I just discussed. The women may inflict scars upon themselves; the men may use paints; for the ultimate purpose of accomplishing an end. That end may seem foolish here, but in Africa, it almost becomes necessary.

CHEPE : Yes mother, but what is it?

MOTHER: Back in the 17th century - in France, for example, the men conducted themselves in the fashion of the day, by the manner they ate; dressed, talked and so forth. Don't you agree, son?

CHEPE : Yes mother, but what is it?

MOTHER : Let's take the case of Don Juan, for example. He is quite the historical character. The movies typify him as a distinct type of that day and age. He leaved an impression of a sort. When you see him depicted you form a conclusion. That conclusion may or may not be an agreeable one. But, regardless of the conclusion you arrive at, you lave Don Juan with one thought. And that thought is always present when see or hear of Don Juan.

CHEPE : Yes mother, but what is it?

MOTHER : Well, Chepe, you arrived at a conclusion by the clothes Don Juan wore. So for God's sake, son, give m permission to take the zoot suit of yours and have it made over into a dress.

CHEPE (after being revived) : Never, mother, never. I shall keep that suit for a keepsake. Who knows, perhaps in the 25th century, someone may look at that suit, and say, "WHAT DON JUAN WORE THAT?"

That may or may not be funny to you, but strange as it sounds, it is a true transcript for that meeting. Now, Alice darling, what do you think? Don't answer by saying,

ALICE : What is it? Don't you think that would make quite a souvenier?

And seriously, I am serving a long, long, time for wearing a suit like that.

Well so long, Alice honey. Write soon.

Chepe Ruiz



Site Navigation

The Film & More: Film Description | Transcript | Primary Sources | Further Reading

Zoot Suit Riots Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline
Gallery | People and Events | Teacher's Guide

Web Credits

© New content 1999-2002 PBS Online / WGBH