UC Berkeley Library

The West

Zoot Suit Riots

Racial tensions between the Anglo and Mexican American communities in Los Angeles, California erupted into violence after the conviction of Henry "Hank" Leyvas and seventeen other Mexican American youths for the murder of Jose Diaz in what was perceived as an unfair trial in 1943. Lorena Encinas, a witness to the murder, kept the real killer's identity a secret until the end of her life. Prominent members of the Los Angeles community worked to fund an appeal for the defendents, even as battles between unruly US Naval personnel and Mexican Americans rocked L.A.'s barrios.