La Bloga, a collective blog on Chicana/o and Latina/o arts and culture, has a fascinating interview with Catherine Ramirez, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory (just out this year on Duke University Press).
I was especially gratified to find this interview as I was teaching one of Ramirez’s earlier essays, “Crimes of Fashion: The Pachuca and Chicana Style Politics,” in my fashion course under the rubric of “subcultures and style police,” alongside Kobena Mercer, Angela Davis (on her “afro image”), and a handful of news clippings and current editorials about the creeping spread of “baggy pants” ordinances — that form of sartorial profiling that is also racial profiling, operationalizing (as Foucault put it in Abnormal) the categorization of individuals who “resemble their crime before they commit it.”
Writing for La Bloga, Olga Garcia Echeverria prefaces the must-read interview with this lovely series of ruminations :
When I wasn’t highlighting passages in Catherine Ramirez’ book, I found myself staring at the cover. The featured picture, printed in the Los Angeles Times in 1942, is both intriguing and haunting. It captures three young Chicana women being taken into police custody for allegedly being members of a pachuca gang, the Black Widows. One woman is gazing directly into the camera. I can’t look at her without wondering who she is and what she’s thinking. In fact, she inspires a litany of questions…
Who are these young women in baggy pants and huaraches entering a police car? What are their stories? Why have they and other women like them of the World War II era been so largely ignored by scholars and historians? And how is it that el pachuco (once demonized as a social menace, effeminate dresser and clueless pocho) got re-envisioned into history as an icon of masculinity, resistance, and cultural pride, whereas his female counterpart, la pachuca, dwindled into erasure?