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The KUT Longhorn Radio Network Presents: Mexican American Experience Collection

Audio recordings including interviews, music, and informational programs related to the Mexican American community and their concerns in the series "The Mexican American Experience" and "A esta hora conversamos" from the Longhorn Radio Network, 1976-1982.

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After The Zoot Suit: An Interview With Mike Gomez, Actor And Activist.
Program #

Armando Gutiérrez
Mike Gómez
Jan 20, 1979

After the Zoot Suit: an interview with Mike Gomez, actor and activist.

Mike Gomez talks about Chicanos in Hollywood and the play Zoot Suit. Gomez first describes how he got started acting in Dallas, Texas at the Dallas Theatre Company and his move to first Austin and then Los Angeles in search of more acting opportunities. Although he was not committed to playing only Chicano roles, he explains that he did feel the lack of heroes for Latino audiences and found himself drawn to minority theatre in inner city LA.

His latest role is in Luis Valdez’ play Zoot Suit, which is based on both the Sleepy Lagoon trial and the Zoot Suit riots. The 1942 trials found 17 Chicano youths guilty for the murder of Jose Diaz on circumstantial evidence alone and despite the judges clear prejudices. Gomez explains that the trial was largely affected by the widespread nativism generated in the early days of World War II. At the time, the press vilified Mexican-Americans and pachuco culture. Gomez then retells the circumstance leading up to the trial and the Zoot Suit Riots, during which Marines and Sailors beat up anyone who looked Mexican.

Gomez explains that the play portrays characters who are composites of the actual defendants in the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial. He describes the advertising efforts that have sought to reach both Anglo and Chicano audiences. He concludes by briefly discussing the current state of Latinos in Hollywood and the lack of representation both on screen and behind the scenes.


Center for Mexican American Studies | Department of History | The Benson Latin American Collection

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