The film; American Me is an epic depiction of 30 years of Chicano gang life in Los Angeles, California. The movie focuses on the life of a 1950s teen named Montoya Santana, who forms a gang with his close friends. The gang is arrested for a break-in, and sentenced to time in juvenile hall. Santana finds trouble on his first night in juvenile hall and goes from juvenile hall to prison for 18 years. There he created and led a powerful gang that operated both inside and outside the prison. When released from Folsom Prison, he tries to make sense of the violence in his life, in a world that has changed greatly. Inspired by a true story, the film provides a fictionalized account of the founding and rise to power of the Mexican Mafia in the California prison system from the 1950s into the 1980s. The story opens by taking the viewer on a journey back in time to the Zoot Suit era of World War II before the birth of Montoya Santana. Santana’s parents were Zoot Suitors. It is here that Santana’s destiny began. Because of the wartime labor shortage of this era, the American and Mexican governments agreed to a program by which braceros (contract laborers) were admitted to the United States for a limited time to work at specific jobs.. Mexican Americans were the second largest group of migrants after Black Americans in the 1940s. The influx of Mexican Americans created societal change. “The sudden expansion of Mexican American neighborhoods created tensions and some conflicts within white society and governmental bodies. White residents of Los Angeles became alarmed at the activities of Mexican American teenagers, most of whom were joining street gangs. Zoot Suits became popular (baggy pants, long loose jacket, the big collar, the long watch chain, the slicked back hair, broad-brimmed hats), which became a symbol of rebellion against conventional white society” (www.stuffliketaht.org, 2010). Thus the term, Zoot Suit was...
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