SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — It’s a new beginning for the San Jose lowrider community as the last “No Cruising” sign in the city came down. For the first time in almost 40 years, lowriders can drive low and slow through the streets of San Jose.
Cruising, as it is known, is about the ride and not the destination. The cruising phenomenon can be traced back to the late 1940s when Mexican-American culture and art took form in the display of decorative cars.
“I’ve always heard stories of people cruising down King and Story. They used to block down the streets and have block parties,” said Lena Carmella Pardo.
These vintage cars are often lowered to the ground, decked out with chrome-plated wheels and engines, and hydraulics that make them bounce a few feet off the ground. The stereotypical lowrider is similar to the cars that Tim Carrasco and Lena Carmella Pardo own.
“So, I’m standing in front of my 1954 Chevy Bel Air,” said Tim Carrasco, proudly showing off his ride. “It has original paint, original interior, original motor.”
But in the late 1970s, lowriders became targets of police. Lowriders like Carrasco said police officers would often associate them with gang members.
“Yeah, I’ve been harassed plenty of times for driving a lowrider car,” said Carrasco. “They seem to pull us over for any minor infraction, sometimes impounding the cars. And with the high cost of getting the car out of the impound, sometimes we would lose our vehicles.”
In 1986, San Jose enacted a ban on cruising. They cited concerns of traffic congestion, impeding the movement of emergency vehicles, criminal activity and creating an environment of fear.
However, San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez spearheaded an initiative to get the ban repealed. He said lowriders are car enthusiasts looking to drive around and show off their cars.
“We take a lot of pride, spend a lot of money to fix our cars and people sometimes associate us and give us a bad rap,” Carrasco said.
In June, councilmembers unanimously agreed to bring back cruising to the streets of San Jose.
“It’s something we enjoyed all the time, going to car shows, cleaning up the car, taking them cruising. Not anything illegal,” said Councilmember Raul Peralez.
With the ordinance repealed, the tradition will continue as family members pass down their cars.
“Cruising means a lot to me — growing up I always had old cars around me, my dad always had a lot of old cars,” said Pardo.
Peralez believes people can now see the lowrider community in a different light and inform themselves about the Chicano culture.
“Finally, the city is going to do what’s right and lift this ban and feel no pressure being able to cruise our car and share it with the community as we’re doing here today,” said Peralez.
“I want them to know that it’s not a crime to ride low and slow. It’s just a joyous time just like you would strolling on your street,” said Pardo.