Henry Leyvas, twenty, worked on his father’s
Chepe Ruiz, eighteen, a fine amateur athlete,
wanted to play big league baseball. In May, 1942, his head had been
cracked open by the butt of a policeman's gun when he had been arrested
on “suspicion of robbery,” although he was later found
not guilty of the charge. In San Quentin Prison, where he and the
others were sent after their conviction in the Sleepy Lagoon case,
Ruiz won the admiration of the warden, the prison staff, and the
inmates when he continued on in a boxing match after several of
his ribs had been broken.
Robert Telles, eighteen, was working in a defense
plant at the time of his arrest. Like many Mexican youngsters on
the east side, he had remarkable skill as a caricaturist and amused
his co-defendants during the trial by drawing caricatures of the
judge, the jury, and the prosecutor.
Manuel Reyes, seventeen, had joined the Navy
in July, 1942, and was awaiting induction when arrested.
Angel Padilla, one of the defendants most severely
beaten by the police, was a furniture worker.
Henry Ynostrosa, eighteen, was married and the
father of a one-year-old girl. He had supported his mother and two
sisters since he was fifteen.
Manuel Delgado, nineteen, also a woodworker,
was married and the father of two children, one born on the day
he entered San Quentin Prison.
Gus Zamora, twenty-one, was also a furniture-worker.
Victor Rodman Thompson, twenty-one, was an Anglo
youngster who, by long association with the Mexican boys in his
neighborhood, had become completely Mexicanized.
Jack Melendez, twenty-one, had been sworn into
the navy before his arrest. When a dishonorable discharge came through
after his conviction, he said it was “like kicking a guy when
John Matuz, twenty, had worked in Alaska with
the U.S. Engineers.
These, then, were the “criminals,” the “baby
gangsters,” the “murderers” who provided Los Angeles
with a Roman holiday of sensationalism, crime-mongering, and Mexican-baiting.
Carey McWilliams. North from Mexico, 1948.