SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – Saturday was officially proclaimed âLowrider Dayâ in the city of San Francisco, and on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, Latino leaders reflected on the influence of lowriders in the city and beyond .
The lowriders have piled into Mission Street, with a display of cars on the sides and an idle cruise in the middle. For those who were here over 40 years ago, it was like the good old days.
âIt was every Friday night,â said longtime lowrider Don Alonzo. âFriday and Saturday evenings, that’s what it was!
The candy-colored lowered vehicles became a symbol of the Latino community and a target for the police, who viewed auto clubs as criminal gangs and harassed them just because they were on the streets.
“It was blatant racism,” said San Francisco Lowrider Council chairman Roberto Hernandez. âWhile here we were driving ‘low and slow’ through town, white kids raced for pink slides on the Great Highway. “
The Lowriders filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court and won. The road to acceptance has been slow, but today police were blocking the streets to host the car show and cruise and Mayor London Breed visited a lowrider art exhibit at the Mission Cultural Center.
“It’s a community that has had a huge impact on the city and county of San Francisco,” the mayor noted. âWhen you think about what has happened before, from blocking the streets so you won’t let the lowriders keep driving, to blocking the street so other cars can’t get in the way of the lowriders cruising, that’s a big turnaround. “
Hernandez, who joined the original lawsuit, remembers the day he was asked to exhibit his car at the Oakland Museum of California.
âThey built a special ramp to get my lowrider in. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that! he said.
Things are by no means perfect, but Carlos Ramirez, who raced lowriders in his early days, is happy that the symbols of his heritage are now more widely accepted.
“It’s a good thing,” he said. “I’ve seen change over the years and it’s a very, very, very good thing.”
Just as cars are hard to ignore, so are the people they represent.
âWe are the ones who feed America,â Hernandez said. âWe are the work force and we will continue to grow so, yes indeed, this is something to be careful of!