Got a message yesterday asking if I could contribute to a San Francisco Examiner article about the new lowrider exhibit at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.
You must be ready at any moment 🙂
Journalist Carly Graf sent me the questions, and I had only about an hour to respond. Here at this link you will see the front-page article she wrote up, which gave us all lots of love.
Below you will see the questions and my full responses. It is my humble honor and strict duty to do my best for our spirit:
- What’s the origin of lowrider culture in San Francisco, and how is it tied specifically to the Latino/Chicano culture?
Vida Loca with lots of love is the root of lowrider culture in Frisco City. In the 70’s and 80’s, before gentrification, the Mission was the epicenter of Latino/Chicano culture in Northern Califas. Shut out of the suburban American dream, we created our own dream of dancing down the gritty streets in flamboyant fashion—lowrider style, Homes! While there are many different ethnicities, such as solid African-American and Filipino Loved Ones, involved in the lowrider scene, lowriding is embedded in many Latino/Chicano cultural rites of passage, including quinceaneras, weddings, graduations, holiday celebrations like Dia de Los Muertos, and funerals. In the Mission we have even used lowriders in political and educational movements, to fight against police brutality and killings, for immigration reform, and to help save City College of San Francisco.
Click the link to read a newspapers article: “Lowriders Occupy Mission Police Station”: http://theguardsman.com/lowriders-occupy-mission-police-station/
Click the link to watch the trailer for “Lowrider Lawyers: Putting a City on Trial”:
- What makes the lowrider community special?
Love: lots of different kinds of love—love for our art, love for each other, love for perfect strangers. We see each other, and even if we do not know each other, we know we share a certain history of oppression and hard-knock amor. We are people who, against all odds, hold our heads up with dignity and pride. Infamous author Oscar Zeta Accosta once wrote that Lowriders are the only ones conscious in society. We know we are supposed to be the hated cockroaches, the ones who were and are mass incarcerated and abandoned by mainstream society, yet we embrace a history and style that is our own and special to us, and that cannot truly be understood unless you have ridden in the rides and hopped down the block. As a lowrider community, we do beautiful things, like getting Christmas gifts together for the needy and cruising like Santa Claus in our reindeer ranflas to deliver them to families’ homes throughout San Francisco.
Link to San Fran Santa Cruise Lowriders Delivering Christmas Gifts to Families in Need, 2020 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy1-lvbYyqc
- What do you think of this exhibit, and why is it important?
Unfortunately, the educational text-books have purposely omitted our authentic experience. This lowrider exhibit is art and history and our future—because the candy color paintjobs, the genius hydraulic engineering, and the romantic steel-etched style inspire new imagination. If we could overcome so much discriminatory devastation, yet still have more class than the oppressors, more authentic good times blasting off in our lowrider spaceships, then we have victory every single day. We enjoy ourselves and do not make-believe that we must gain mass acceptance in order to be; we enjoy the moment and truly live. That is what this exhibit and lowriding are all about—falling in love with our rides, with our families, with our Homies, with our community. No one transforms the golden era of American General Motors muscle into love and spirit the way we do. We combined American steel with airplane hydraulics and solid Soul oldies to create something more than static art.
- Please share a little bit about lowrider vehicles as art.
Lowriders are more than art. Lowriders are life. On the night time streets, I witnessed bumper-to-bumper lowriders cruising the Mission back in the 70’s and 80’s, but I could not even imagine owning one. My family was dirt poor and never even owned a car. In 1989, while my Brother Jeff (a Mission legend who lived and died on the streets) was in prison, I escaped mass incarceration and probable death by joining the Marine Corps. While suffering and fighting in the war, I dreamed of coming back to the States and purchasing my first lowrider. It was the dream of cruising down Mission Street in a 64 Super Sport Impala that saved my life by giving me hope outside of so much violence and destruction, both on the streets and in the Corps. Over the past thirty years, I have cruised seven lowriders and classics. Lowriders give me purpose, the moment, life itself, which is the ultimate art.