The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this 1986 essay, art historian Marcos Sanchez-Tranquilino discusses Mexican poet Octavio Paz’s (mis)representation of 1940s Mexican-American subculture, including the zoot suits worn by Chicano people. The writer states that in his book Labyrinth of Solitude (1950), Paz is unable to understand the bicultural condition of Mexican-Americans, as it is inscribed in the figure zoot-suiter of 1940s Los Angeles. Sanchez-Tranquilino provides the historical context by which Mexican-Americans are seen as the “other” in an “Anglo/non-Anglo” ethnic system that has dominated in the U.S. since the Mexican-American war of 1848. The rise of the zoot suit in the 1940s becomes, in Sanchez-Tranquilino’s view, the medium through which a Mexican-American identity is constructed. The author deconstructs Paz’s interpretation of the “pachuco”—the name given to the zoot-suiters by Paz—noting the problematic alignment of “pachuco” with the “other.” Instead, Sanchez-Tranqilino maintains that the emergence of the zoot suit is an adaptation of young Mexican-Americans as they negotiate their environment, riddled with varying socio-political factors that deny them a constructive position in society.
An important member of the Chicano art movement, art historian and cultural analyst Marcos Sanchez-Tranquilino has written numerous articles on the historical relevance of the zoot suit and murals to Chicano society. He was born in Mexico City and earned his BA and MA from the University of California at Los Angeles. His master’s thesis, “Mi Casa No Es Su Casa: Chicano Murals and Barrio Calligraphy as Systems of Signification at Estrada Courts,” continues to be an important piece of literature in defining Chicano art history. Other writings include CARA Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965–1985 coauthored with Shifra M. Goldman (Los Angeles: Wight Art Gallery, 1991) and The Chicano Codices: Encountering Art of the Americas, coauthored with Cherri Moraga (San Francisco: The Mexican Museum, 1992).