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San Francisco lowriders to celebrate Carnaval in the Mission, honoring culture and struggle

San Francisco lowrider community to participate in Carnaval
San Francisco lowrider community to participate in Carnaval 03:45

Fans of lowrider culture had to fight to make the cars street legal, an their victories revved the engines for arguably one of the most popular parts of this weekend's San Francisco Carnaval parade. 

Daniel Salazar bought a lowrider five years ago and has invested thousands of dollars his car into a masterpiece on wheels.

"You got ten switches, but I usually use just four: mainly the back, the front, and then I'll knock it to the side over there and back up. Turn it down this way and just cruise up and down," Salazar explained.

Born and raised in San Francisco's Mission District, Salazar will cruise the neighborhood's streets this weekend, showcasing his hard work at Carnaval SF.

"I used to come out and see Carnaval when I was a little kid, and I was like, 'One of these days, I'm gonna have one of those cars. And I went from having one of those cars to, 'One of these days, I'm gonna be in the parade; to be in charge of the coordination of the car show for Carnaval,'" he said.

For Don Alonzo, a fellow member of the Lowrider Council, Carnaval SF represents more than just a celebration. It's an opportunity to vindicate and honor the Lowrider movement.

"Lowriding in itself, I think people are aware now that it's a family-oriented sport; lowrider culture. And with that being said, to fight to be where we are today, it started with a lot of education. Because a lot of people didn't know about the culture," Alonzo said.

The lowrider community regards La Raza Park as the heart of their culture.

"This place is where lowriders used to hang out. It was just a dirt lot with a lot of tires on it, and the lowriders were the ones who kept it clean," Alonzo recalled.

The San Francisco Lowrider Council was founded in the early 1980s in response to repeated police harassment of Latino men, especially those driving lowrider cars.

"It was a long battle. They fought federal court cases and whatnot to be able to do our lifestyle and our culture, because they did not allow it. And the cops every weekend would throw people in jail and beat them up. Just not allow us to cruise," Salazar said.

After a successful legal injunction, the right to cruise on Mission Street and other designated parts of the city was solidified for generations to come. As Carnaval SF approaches, Daniel and Don reflect on the significance of this event and the challenges and victories of the lowrider movement.

"It's one thing to own a lowrider and go to shows and represent on the streets with your club. But there's another aspect for those actually bringing the lifestyle for all to enjoy. And that's what the Lowrider Council does. And we're preserving that," Alonzo said.

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