August 18, 2006

Lowriding for education in the community

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

There’s no doubt that lowriders have had a bad reputation in the past.

They were seen as nothing more than a bunch of gang members spending too much money on their cars.

But the reality is that since the 1950’s, lowriders have been very involved in the Mexican community of major cities in the United States. They would participate in marches, in political protests, and in the fight for civil rights.

Once again, the Low Rider community in San Diego will say “Presente!” this Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27, at Fiesta del Sol, a street festival that will take place on Imperial Ave., between 21st and 25th streets, in Barrio Logan and Sherman Heights.

The Lowriders for Education Car Show, sponsored by low rider club Klique San Diego and the San Diego High School Foundation will be there to raise funds for the Communication Investigations in a Multicultural Atmosphere (CIMA) College Tour next Spring. CIMA is one of the six small high schools located at San Diego High.

“The social consciousness of lowriders has always been there,” said Carlos Vazquez, board member of San Diego High School Foundation.

Back in the 1980’s, when Carlos was into lowriding, he said that lowriders would organize car washes to raise funds for causes in the community.

Lowriders for Education will display 70 cars, including local radio celebrity Xavier the Man’s 1963 Chevy Impala. The exhibit will also include an informational area about the history of lowriders in San Diego, memorabilia, and lowriders bicycles, said Oscar Vazquez, of Klique San Diego and co-founder of Lowriders for Education.

The purpose is to raise as much money as possible to contribute to CIMA Spring College Tour, which every year takes 11th graders to visit several college campuses in northern California, including Stanford and Berkeley. Expenses for the college tour can cost up to $12,000.

All contributions, including raffle items of Tribal Gear and original art, will be donated to Lowriders for Education.

Both Carlos and Oscar Vazquez graduated from San Diego High in the 1980’s. Oscar said that Lowriders for Education is their way of offering a better future to CIMA’s current students, something that wasn’t common when they were students in high school.

“No one ever offered us something like this,” Oscar said. “College wasn’t always an option for many of us. Now that we’ve settled down we have the chance of helping San Diego High’s youth.”

Carlos said that “due to economics many of those kids can’t go out of the area to college. But this college tour opens their eyes to see what opportunities are out there for them.”

Klique San Diego, whose lowrider cars were exhibited at the San Diego Automotive Museum from January thru March 2006, volunteered to organize the Lowriders car show/exhibition following a tradition of supporting their community since the 1950s. They continue the legacy focusing on education, Oscar said.

And by organizing events like this, lowriders continue to break all stereotypes, he said.

“We’re hard working people, many of us have college degrees, and we have families. The negative image that the mainstream media put on lowriders was because lowriders were misunderstood. The media didn’t really know anything about them. Now that image has changed completely.”

San Diego’s First Annual Fiesta del Sol celebrates the diversity that exists in the community, said Liliana Garcia-Rivera, chairperson of the Fiesta and vice-president of San Diego High School Foundation, and co-founder of Lowriders for Education.

“The Fiesta brings new life into a neighborhood that is not celebrated, education to a demographic that has little access, and art to a place where it can heal and enrich,” she said.

“This is a time for all to celebrate.”

For more information on Lowriders for Education or Fiesta del Sol, please visit www.fiestadelsolsandiego.org or call 619-994-6764.

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