3. Discuss the use of stereotypes in at least two of this week’s readings. Do they all function to support a message? Or are there some unintended messages as well? Be specific with page references in your explanation.
In the first act of Zoot Suit, there are some significant stereotypes expressed, such as the one on page 29, when the radio informed the audience of the 300 Chicanos who were rounded up by the police and taken into custody. The radio informs those who were victims of robbery, purse snatching and other similar crimes to report to the detention center to possibly identify any subjects. This emphasizes the stereotype that Mexicans steal, and that is why the chances of the public being able to pick out their aggressors in jail are high. Another example of the same stereotype is seen on page 31, when Henry was arrested and Lieutenant Edwards admits that in the past he had mistakenly arrested Henry for stealing a car, when in fact it was Henry’s father’s car that he was driving. These stereotypes help emphasize the fact that Chicanos are constantly racially profiled by authorities and always suspected of doing wrong. The 300 Chicanos were already unjustly arrested, yet they [the police] insist on finding more dirt on them to accumulate to their charges because the stereotype is that Mexicans steal. When Henry was seen driving his father’s car, the officer must have assumed Henry a car thief because he is young, Mexican, and that he couldn’t possibly afford a decent looking car.
In Luis Valdez’s short play, “Los Vendidos,” the plot consists of one of Ronald Reagan’s secretaries looking for a Mexican looking person/robot to fit into their office, perhaps in order to make an image of themselves and claim to be “multicultural.” So the vendor, Sancho, is showing her the different models of Mexicans he has, each representing different types of common stereotypes perpetuated by society. The story is actually humorous, but it proves a good point, for with each model there was something specific that was not of the Secretary’s liking, and “unable” to meet their [the government’s] standards. First off, there is the farm worker, on page 293, who represented the stereotype of greasy, cheap, and hard-working. His inability to speak Spanish is what made him unqualified in the Secretary’s eyes, much to how it is in real life for migrant workers; their work ethics and eagerness to work at low wages may be convenient for their employers, but in the long run their inability to speak English is what holds them back from upward mobility. The second model, the Pachuco, on page 294, represented the stereotype that Mexicans are violent criminals and that they steal. The only good quality that the secretary saw in him was that he spoke English, but even then she was appalled at the kind of language he used, to which Sancho replied “He learned it from your schools.” This is making an underhanded jab at the American school system giving Chicanos low quality education compared to Anglos. The Revolutionary Mexican model, on page 296, was not ideal for the secretary as well because he was too cultural/ethnic, which is not wanted in American society. Finally the secretary was “duped” to buy the college educated Mexican American who was cleansed of all his cultural background and assimilated to the American lifestyle. The model then malfunctioned and expressed Chicanismo and the destruction of all white people. As exaggerated as it was, it proved a point in the fact that Chicanos can strive to discard their ethnicity and become part of the melting pot we call America, but they will never fully fit in due to their race/ethnicity; they will always pose a threat to the ideal American society.