Like Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and August Wilson, Luis Valdez is known for his masterful use of heightened and highly poetic language. ZOOT SUIT is written in a style that is at once deeply specific to the period and population of the characters and setting of the play, but also manages to reach out and achieve significance to audiences of many backgrounds. Of particular interest is the use of Caló, or “Pachuco Slang,” a language that is not Spanish nor English nor “Spanglish” but a unique language which the Pachuco culture brought to LA from El Paso and Cuidad Juaréz. Caló incorporates a lot of rhyming, code-switching, and alteration of phonemes and spelling. Some examples:

AL RATO, BATO. This literally means “see you later, my friend” (or more like “see ya later alligator”). The word “vato” (friend) is pronounced and spelled with a “b.” Contrariwise, words like “barrio” (neighborhood) become “varrio.”

Here’s a common Caló exchange:

¿Qué te pasa, calabaza? / Nada nada limonada. – “What’s going on, you melon?” “Nothing, nothing, lemonade.”

Below is a glossary of terms used in the play grouped in order by Act and Scene, including Caló words and phrases but also terms in Spanish, English, or historical terms that Valdez employs to craft his scenes and characters.




The following Spanish or Caló words and phrases appear throughout the script:

Agüítala – control yourself

Andale – hurry up

Apa/Ama – dad/mom

Barrio – neighborhood

Bato – dude, guy

Borlo – dance

Cabrón – bastard

Cálmenla – calm down, cool it

Carnal – brother

Carnala – sister

Carnalillo – little brother

Chale – no

Chango – monkey

Chicas Patas – Chicano

Chingón – big shot

Chula – pretty girl

Es puro basilón – It’s only fun

Ese/Esa – man, dude/woman, girl

Frajo – cigarette

Foquiar – screw you

Gabacho – Anglo, gringo, paddy, white American

Hay te watcho – see you later/there

Hijo/Hija – son/daughter

Hombre – man

Huisa – girlfriend

Jaina – girlfriend, woman

Jefita/Jefito – mother/father

La Jura – the law

Me la rayo – for sure, it’s the truth

Menudo – tripe soup

Mira – look

Muchacho – young man

Mujer – woman

Nel – no (more forceful than chale)

No te hagas gacho – don’t be gauche

Orale – hey, right on

Pedo – Hassle, excitement, “hot air”

Pendejadas – stupidities, nonsense (literally “things like pubic hairs”)

Pendejo – idiot

Pinche – lousy (as in “fucking lousy”)

Ponte abusado – wise up, get smart

Por favor – please

Pos – well

Puro pedo – bullshit

Puro relajo – bullshit

Puto/Puta – prostitute

Que desmadre – what a mess

Ruca – wife, girlfriend

Ruco – old

Simón – yes

Sura – soiled, unclean

Surote – bad (cool) dude

Tacuche – the whole kit and kaboodle, the Zoot Suit threads, the fancy duds, the whole look.

Te curas – can you beat it?

Trucha – look out/watch out

Vámonos – let’s leave/get out of here

Verdolada – naïve, hick

Watcha – look

Y qué – so what?

Ya estubo – that’s enough

Ya me estás cayendo gordo – you’re being a pain in the ass

Ya pués – that’s enough





El Pachuco – Opening Monologue:

“¿Que le watcha a mis trapos, ese?           “What, you’re looking at my clothes, dude?

¿Sabes qué, carnal?                                                          You know what, brother?

Estas garras me las planté porque                   I put these old rags on myself because

Vamos a dejarnos caer un play, ¿sabe?     We’re going let ourselves get lost in a play, you know?

Watcha mi tacuche, ese. Aliviánese con mis calcos                Check out my threads, dude. Be cool like my shoes

tando,                                                                            hat

lisa, tramos, y carlango, ese.                                  Shirt, trousers, and long coat, dude.

(pause)                                                                           (pause)

Nel, sabe qué, usted está muy verdolaga. Como se me          

                                         No, you know what, you are very naïve(verdolaga

                                        is a plant, purslane – the implication is that the                                                    audience is “green”). Like me

Hace,                                                                             before

que es puro square                                                           that is pure square

…                                                                                 …

It was the secret fantasy of every bato                     It was the secret fantasy of every dude

in or out of the Chicanada                                                 in or out of the neighborhood

[there’s a play on words here – Chicanada here means “world of the Chicanos” but also has a connotation of something that is broken that is hastily fixed, or passed over with bluster (chicanery)]


to put on a Zoot Suit and play the Myth            to put on a Zoot suit and play the Myth

más chucote que la chingada.                                 More gangster than a motherfucker

(Puts hat back on and turns.)                                             (Puts hat back on and turns.)

¡Pos órale!”                                                                    Come on then!”



El Pachuco – First Verse:

“COMO LOS PACHUCONES DOWN IN L.A.”                  “like the pachucos down in L.A.”

“DONDE BAILAN SWING.”                                           “where they dance swing.”

“HEP”                                                                          old-fashioned term for “hip”


“Downey… ¡Rifa!”                                                         a rallying cry applied after the name of a region/area

“¡Toma!”                                                                       a mocking reply


El Pachuco – Second Verse:
“TRUCHA ESE LOCO, VAMOS AL BORLO                   “Watch out, crazy dude, lets go to the party

WEAR THAT CARLANGO, TRAMOS Y TANDO          wear your long coat, trousers and hat

DANCE WITH YOUR HUISA                                         dance with your girlfriend

…                                                                                 …

TAMBIEN EN COLORADO Y ARIZONA                         also in Colorado and Arizona

THEY’RE WEARING THAT TACUCHE EN EL PASO     they’re wearing that outfit in El Paso

Y EN TODOS LOS SALONES DE CHICAGO”                  and all of the halls in Chicago”



“Trucha, la jura. Pélenle!”                                               “Look out, it’s the police. Split!”

“El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de              “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of

los Angeles de Porciúncula, pendejo.”                       the Angels of the Little Portion, asshole.”



“¿Qué pues, nuez?”                                                         “What’s going on?”

“¿Qué desmadre, no?”                                                     “What a mess, huh?”

“Calmante montes, chicas patas.”                                       “Chill out, ladies.”

“¿Te curas?”                                                                  “Can you beat it?”

“¿Que mamadas, no?”                               “What bullshit, no?” [actually, “blowjobs”]

“ya estuvo, carnal.”                                                         “that’s it, brother.”

“Me la rayo.”                                                                 “It’s the truth.”

“Con safos, carnal.”                                                         “With pride, brother.”

“gabacho”                                                       “Anglo, white American”


“with your buenas garras”                                           “with your good rags (clothes)”

“chunkhole”                                                                   regionalism for “pothole”

“Tu mama, carnal.”                                                         “Your mother, brother.”

“Henry, ¿hijo? Ven a cenar.”                                “Henry, son? Come have dinner.”

“God knows I suffer la pena negra…”                                  “God knows I suffer the black pain…”[1]

“Pero tu padre…”                                                            “But your father…”

“Pero por diosito santo, I just don’t know what you             “But for God’s sake, I just don’t know what you

see en esa cochinada de ‘soot zoot.’”                                   see in that nasty zoot suit.

“Drapes”                                                                        old-fashioned slang for long suits

“Ay sí, drapes, muy funny, verdad?”                                  “Oh yes, drapes, very funny, right?”

“¿Sabes qué?”                                                                “You know what?”

“A qué mi ‘amá.”                                                                       “Oh, my mother.”

“Bendito sea Dios.”                                                         “Blessed be God.”

“buenas noches.”                                                             “good evening.”

“¿Oye y tú?”                                                                  “Hey and you?”

“Come out, te digo… ¡Válgame Dios!”                               “Come out, I say… Oh my God!”

“¡VIEJA!”                                                                      “Old lady!”

“¡Ay, jijo!”                                                                    slang, an incredulous reaction

“¿Y a mí qué me importa?”                                              “What do I care?”

“No, señorita.”                                                               formal term for an unmarried woman

“Chihuahua…”                                                               an expression of surprise or dismay

“¡Te digo que no!”                                                          “I am telling you no!”

“Es hombre.”                                                                 “He’s a man.”

“De tal palo, tal astillota.”                                                            an idiom here meaning “Like father, like son.”

“¡Bien macho!… Verdad, ¿m’jio?”                                                “Very masculine! Right, my son?”

“Muy bonita.”                                                                “Very beautiful.”

“Ay, Señor.”                                                                  “Oh, man!”

“Este hombre. We have company.”                                                “This man. We have company.”

“I invited the compadres to the house mañana.”                    “I invited some good friends to the house tomorrow.”

“¿Que qué?”                                                                  “What what?”

“cerveza”                                                                       “beer”

“¿Oye, cuál menudo?”                                                     “Hey, what menudo?”

“¡Qué caray, mujer!”                                                        an expression of incredulity directed at a woman

“N’ombre”                                                                     “No, man.”

“Orale, pues.”                                                                 “Alright, then.”

“Oye, oye, ¿y tú?”                                                          “Hey, hey, and you?”

“¡Me lleva la chingada!”                      a vulgar expression used to express anger or outrage

“¡por el amor de Dios!”                                                    “for the love of God!”

“¿Cómo la ves?”                                                                        “What do you think?”

“¿Tú sabes?”                                                                 “You know?”

“Pos, no hay pedo, ese.”                                                  “Well, there’s no problem, dude.”

“¿Cómo que pedo? ¿Nel, Simón?”                              “What’s the problem? No, yes?” Slang.

“Ahí te watcho, ‘ama.”                                                    “I’ll see you later, mom.”

“¿Que qué?”                                                                  “What what?”


El Pachuco – Second Song:

“CADA SABADO EN LA NOCHE                                   “Every Saturday night

YO ME VOY A BORLOTEAR                                         I’m going to dance
CON MI LINDA PACHUCONA                                       with my pretty pachucona
LAS CADERAS A MENEAR                                           our hips are shaking

ELLA LE HACE MUY DE AQUELLAS                            She makes him the very best
CUANDO EMPIEZA A GUARACHAR             when they start to dance guarachar[2]
AL COMPAS DE LOS TIMBALES                                  to the beat of the kettledrum
YO ME SIENTO PETATEAR                                          I feel like peeling


LOS CHUCOS SUAVES BAILAN RUMBA              The slick pachucos dance rumba

BAILAN LA RUMBA Y LE ZUMBAN                             dance rumba and the buzz

BAILAN GUARACHA SABROSON                                 dance the pleasant guaracha

EL BOTECITO[3] Y EL DANZON”                      the little butt and the danzón”[4]



“mollycoddle”                                                                old-fashioned expression for overprotecting someone



“Qué pinche aügite.”                                                        “What a bummer.”

“Pos, qué chingados, Hank.”                                             “Well, what the fuck, Hank.”

“joto”                                                                           a homophobic slur

“maricón”                                                                      another homophobic slur

“culero”                                                                         “asshole”

“¡Pinches chavalos!”                                                        “Damn youngsters!”

“cabulinado”                                                                  “horsing around”

“All this farting around con esos chavalillos.”              “All this farting around with these youngsters.”

“No te agüites.”                                                              “Don’t feel bad.”
“chingazos”                                                                    in this context, “fist fights”

“pachucada”                                                                   organization of pachucos

“chingazos”                                                               in this context, “blows” or “strikes”

“Gimme a break, maníaco. ¡Yo soy pachuco!”           “Gimme a break, maniac. I’m a pachuco!”

“Pónganse al alba. Este me huele a chota.”               “Set yourself at dawn. This one smells like a snitch.”

“I ain’t Zoot Suit Yokum.”                             A comic strip character of the period created by Al Capp, author of Lil’ Abner.


“One of the first to perceive the interchangeability between fantasy and reality in the existence of the zoot suiters was the famed and controversial cartoonist Al Capp. It may be . . . . that Capp (more than any other individual or institution) was responsible for the American public to the perils of zoot-suiterism.” -Mauricio Mazon, The Zoot Suit Riots: The Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation (1988)




“¿Sabes qué, mister?”                                                      “You know what, mister?”

“De cincho se le va a volar la tapa.”                        “He’s going to blow his lid.”

“Nel, este bolillo no sabe nada.”             “Nah, this whitey doesn’t know anything.”

“¿Cómo sabes?”                                                             “How do you know?”

“Más a menos.”                                                              “More or less.”

“¡Híjole, qué gacho, ese!”                                              “Yikes, that’s fucked up, dude!”



El Pachuco – Third Song:

“CUANDO SALGO YO A BAILAR                                  “When I go out dancing

YO ME PONGO MUY CATRIN                                       I get very well dressed

LAS HUISITAS TODAS GRITAN, DADDY                      All the girls scream, daddy

VAMOS A BAILAR EL SWING”                                     lets dance the swing


“Ese, ¡surote!… No te hagas gacho.”               “Hey, bad boy!… Don’t make a fuss.”

“Huy, yu, yui.”                                                              Oy gevalt, ay-ay-ay, mama mia.

“the difference between being cool and being cool-O.”            wordplay, “being cool and being an asshole (culo).”


El Pachuco – Third Song, Second Verse:

“CUANDO VOY AL VACILON                                       “When I go to have some fun
Y ME METO YO A UN SALON                                      and I’m going out to a lounge
LAS CHAVALAS GRITAN, PAPI VENTE                                    the girls all scream, daddy come

VAMOS A BAILAR DANSON!”                                      let’s dance the dansón!”


“¿qué traes?”                                                                  “what’s up?”


El Pachuco – Third Song, Third Verse:

“TOCAN MAMBO SABROSON                                     “They play mambo sabrosón

SE ALBROROTA EL CORAZON                                                the heart is excited

Y CON UNA CHAVALONA VAMOS                               and with a beautiful girl let’s go

VAMOS A BILAR EL MAMBO”                                     let’s go dance the mambo”
“¡Y a ti qué te importa, puto!”                                           “And what do you care, b*tch!”

“El comenzó a chingar conmigo.”                                      “He started fucking with me.”

“Tú me haces la puñeta, ¡pirujo!”                                       “You provoked me, slut!”

“¿que no?”                                                                    “what, no?”/asking to confirm a contradiction

“Vale madre. ¡Downey Rifa!”                        “I don’t give a fuck! Downey Rifa!”

“And nobody chinga con mi familia…”                               “And nobody fucks with my family…”

“Qué mamada, Hank.”                                                     “What bullshit, Hank.”

“¡Píntate!”                                                                     “Go away!”

“Está suave.”                                                                  “This one’s soft.”

“¡Chinga tu madre!”                                                        “Fuck your mother!”

“¡Se escamaron todos!”                                                    “He scared everybody away!”

“joto”                                                                           a homophobic slur

“¿Por qué, carnal?”                                                         “Why, brother?”

“¡La 38th rifa!”                                                                “The 38th Street rifa!”


El Pachuco – Third Song, Fourth Verse:

“DE LOS BAILES QUE MENTE                                     “Of the dances of the mind

Y EL BOLERO Y EL BEGUIN                     the bolero[5] and the beguín[6]

DE TODOS LOS BAILES JUNTOS                                  of all the dances together

ME GUSTA BAILAR EL SWING! HEY!”                         I like to dance the swing! Hey!”



“Mmm, pues. No comment.”                                            “Mmm, well. No comment.”

“lumpenproletariat”                      Marxist term, “apolitical,” not concerned with revolution

“¿Me entiendes, Mendez?”                                               “Do you understand?” [rhyming slang]



“Se watchan bien gachos.”                                                            “You guys look terrible.”

“¡Más alba nalga!”                               slang expression, “Put some class on your ass!”



“Ay, jijo.”                                                                     slang, an incredulous reaction

“¿Sabes qué?”                                                                “You know what?”

“¿pos qué pasó?”                                                                        “Well, what happened?”

“Ya estuvo.”                                                                  “That’s it.”



“¡Hijo mío!¡Hijo de mi alma!”                                          “My son! Son of my soul!”

“Ahí los watcho.”                                                                       “I’ll see you then.”



El Pachuco – Opening Monologue:

“Watchamos pachucos”                                                    “Let’s look, pachucos”

“los batos”                                                                     “the dudes” [vatos]

“El Pueblo de Los was the battle zone”                               “The town of Los Angeles was the battle zone”

“pero ¿saben qué?”                                                          “But you know what?”

“inside the walls of San Quintín.”                                      a state prison approximately 400 miles from East LA


ACT II, Scene 1


ACT II, Scene 2

“reet”                                                                            English slang, “right” or “good”

“Eres una ruca de aquellas.”                                              “You are the best chick.”

“el Cinco de Mayo”                                                         “the Fifth of May,” a predominately US holiday


ACT II, Scene 3

“¡Ni madre!”                                                                  “No way in hell!”

“Pos who told you, you could write, ese?”    “Well who told you, you could write, dude?”


ACT II, Scene 4

“pachuquismo”                                        the specific culture, or essence, of pachucos

“The raza here in Los.”                                                    “My people here in Los Angeles.”


ACT II, Scene 5

“¿Qué traes, Hank?”                                                        “What’s up, Hank?”

“¡Como loco!”                                                                “Like crazy!”

“¿Sabes qué?”                                                                “You know what?”

“¡Orale, pues!”                                                                “Alright, then!”

“Es puro vacilón!”                                                           “It’s pure bullshit!”

“This is Los, carnal.”                                                      “This is Los Angeles, brother.”


ACT II, Scene 6

“the original cucho”                          “the original pachuco”/the origins of the term

“Wop”                                                       a slur often applied to Italian immigrants

“huarache”                                                                     a type of pre-Columbian sandal


ACT II, Scene 7

“The Mocambo…”             a nightclub in West Hollywood w/ Latin American decor

“… Hotcha!”                                old-fashioned interjection expressing delight

“Sounds like Louella Parsons.”     America’s first Hollywood gossip columnist

“Goodbye, Licha.”                                                          Spanish variant of “Alicia”


ACT II, Scene 8


ACT II, Scene 9

“¡Bendito sea Dios!”                                                        “Blessed be God!”

“I haven’t felt like this since Villa took Zacatecas.”               a critical victory in the Mexican Revolution

“¡Pero mira!… “¡Mis hijos!                                              “But look!… My children!”

“los Mexicanos”                                                             “the Mexicans”

“Jorge, Licha, todos.”                                                      “George, Alice, everyone.”

“Vénganse, vamos todos.”                                                            “Come on in, let’s go everyone.”

“Yo también, Hank. Te quiero.”                  “Me too, Hank. I love you.”[7]

“Qué pues, getting cold feet already?”         “What then, getting cold feet already?”

“¿De qué, hombre?”                                                        “About what, man?”

“¿Qué traes, carnal?”                                                       “What’s up, brother?”

“If you still want me, órale, suave.”           “If you still want me, alright then, fine.”

“Throwing chingazos with everybody!”      “Throwing punches with everybody!”

“Pero no le hace.”                                                           “But it doesn’t matter.”

“Pero me chingan la madre…”                                           “But it’s worthless”

“¿Y tú, ese?”                                                                 “And you, dude?”

“¡Ya pues!”                                                                    “Okay, fine!”

“Vieja”                                                                          “Old lady”

“Qué se trae, carnal? Póngase más abusado, ese.                   “What’s up, brother? Be sharper, dude.

No se haga tan square.”                                                     Don’t be such a square.”

“Pos, le estoy hablando en chicas patas, ese.         “Well, I’m speaking to you in chicano, dude.

Es puro chicano.”                                                                        It’s pure chicano.”

“Qué chicano? Ni que madre, cabrón.”            “What chicano? Not even, bastard.”

“Cabrones, se amontonaron.”                   “Bastards, they ganged up on me.”

“¿Sabes por qué?”                                                           “And you know why?”

“Me chingaron, ese.”                                                       “They fucked me, man.”

“all chingón in your tacuche, ese.”       “All big shot in your fancy duds, dude.”

“pulling my greña”                                                          “pulling my hair”

“hijos de la chingada”                                                      “sons of bitches”

“¡TE DIGO QUE NO!”                                                    “I’m telling you no!”

“El carnal de aquellas.”                                                    “The best brother.”



[1] Also the title of a Federico García Lorca poem published in 1928’s Romancero Gitano. The collection focuses on the persecution of marginalized individuals, and specifically explores clashes between those on the fringes of society and authoritarian forces (typically paramilitary groups).

[2] A Cuban music and dance style.

[3] Bote can mean a lot of different things (butt, can, jail, bite, etc.)

[4] Danzón is another Cuban style of music and dance.

[5] A slow-tempo Latin music and dance style.

[6] A music and dance style that combines Latin folk and French ballroom.

[7] The use of the casual “te quiro” as opposed to “te amo” leaves this line open to interpretation.