In Search of the Authentic Pachuco

An Interpretive Essay
  • Arturo Madrid
Part of the New Directions in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)


From his beginnings the Pachuco has been a character endowed with mythic dimensions, a construct of fact and fiction, viewed with both hostility and curiosity, revulsion and fascination. It is time to begin the long, laborious process of peeling back the layers of falsehood and fantasy that obscure his true history. It is time to view him in human terms, in the context of both racial and class prejudices, integrated and not isolated from the experience of lower class Mexican youth growing up in the United States. It is time now to plumb the depths of his alienation, to measure the extent of his self-segregation, to analyze the dimensions of his rebellion. The very existence of the Pachuco is indicative of the conflictive experience of the Mexicanos de acá de este lado and thus richly deserves the attention of the social and not the sensational historian.1


Short Story Grand Jury Saturday Night Sensational Historian Conflictive Experience 
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  1. 2.
    For information on the anti-Mexican riots of June 1943 see Carey McWilliams, North from Mexico (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), chapter 13. Solomon Jones has written an M.A. thesis on the Los Angeles area attacks, which, though it leaves much to be desired, does attempt to correct the legacy of distortions: Solomon J. Jones, “The Government Riots of Los Angeles, June 1943” (M.A. Thesis, Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles, 1969). The reader who wishes to pursue the matter further should explore the Carey McWilliams Collection 2 to be found in the Public Affairs section of the UCLA Research Library.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    For general information, see auCarey McWilliams, chapter 13, and Beatrice Griffith, American Me (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948), 15–28. For specific information and documentation, see the various depositions, investigative reports, and newspaper clippings in the Carey McWilliams Collection 2, under the title “Race Riots.”Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Beatrice Griffith documented the experience of Mexican youth growing up in Los Angeles in the 1940s in her socioliterary study American Me. General information can be found in Carey McWilliams, chapters 12 and 13. See also George I. Sanchez, “Pachucos in the Making,” Common Ground vol. 4 (fall 1943), 13–20.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Octavio Paz, El laberinto de la soledad (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1959), 13. The work has been translated into English byGoogle Scholar
  5. Lysander Kemp, The Labyrinth of Solitude (New York: Grove Press, 1962). The quotes are taken from the latter text, and the page references correspond to this edition.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Octavio Romano, “The Historical and Intellectual Presence of Mexican-Americans,” El Grito vol. II, no. 2 (winter 1969): 35. What emerged from his search were not many masks, as Octavio Paz insisted in his Freudianesque overtones of his work. Instead, what emerged from his search were but different life styles which represented different historical trends, a variety of individual experiences, and multiple intellectual currents—in short, Many Mexicans, just as today there are Many Mexican-Americans.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    First published in Alegria’s El poeta que se volvió gusano (Mexico, 1956) and reprinted in Antonia Castaneda, et al., Literatura Chicana, texto y contexto (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972), 355–360. The translation is mine.Google Scholar
  8. 36.
    Mario Suarez, “Kid Zopilote,” Arizona Quarterly vol. 3, no. 2 (summer 1947), 130–137. The page numbers cited after the quotes correspond to this citation.Google Scholar
  9. 41.
    First published in hardcover by Doubleday and Company, Inc., in 1959, Pocho has since been reissued as a paperback: José Antonio Villarreal, Pocho (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1970). The page numbers cited after the quotes refer to the Anchor Books edition of 1970.Google Scholar
  10. 48.
    Javier Alva, “The Sacred Spot,” Con Safos. vol. 1, no. 3 (March 1969): 1–23. The story has been reprinted inGoogle Scholar
  11. Luis Valdez and Stan Steiner’s Aztlán, Anthology of Mexican American Literature (New York: Random House, Inc., 1972), 170–172. The page numbers cited refer to the Valdez-Steiner anthology.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alicia Gaspar de Alba 2003

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  • Arturo Madrid

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