This Man Created A Lowrider Scene In L.A. Because He Was Fed Up With Negative Chicano Stereotypes

An iconic Southern California scene: Chicanos driving through palm-tree-lined streets bumping oldies in lowered vintage cars. Otherwise known as cruising, this activity is more than a pastime; it’s also a form of expression and resistance that enables often marginalized people to claim space and assert identity.

CREDIT: Samanta Helou Hernandez

While cruising has been an integral part of Chicano culture in Los Angeles since the 1940’s, these informal gatherings were rare in recent years. That’s where James Solano comes in.

 

CREDIT: Samanta Helou Hernandez

A lowrider aficionado who grew up watching his dad work on his lowered 1958 Chevy Impala, Solano felt a need to revive cruising culture. When he got news that the popular 6th street bridge connecting Downtown L.A. to Boyle Heights was being torn down, he invited a group of friends to cruise over and post up with their cars.

CREDIT: Samanta Helou Hernandez

 

What started as a small meeting amongst friends, evolved into Los Angeles Cruise Night, a bi-weekly gathering of up to 150 lowriders and 800 attendees. “We kind of reignited that informal gathering of cars. Normally you had to wait for a car show or wait for a sanctioned event to show up,” explains Solano.

 

CREDIT: Samanta Helou Hernandez

On a recent Friday evening, cars line up near the L.A. river in an industrial part of the city overlooking the Downtown skyline. Oldies, funk, and West Coast hip-hop blast out of decked out sound systems as attendees both old and young walk up and down admiring these candy-painted pieces of art. Families in foldable chairs sit next to their customized lowriders and catch up with old friends parked next to them. It’s a peaceful celebration of a Chicano culture kept alive despite constant attempts to demonize it.

 

CREDIT: Samanta Helou Hernandez

“When we do our cruise night I think we kind of eliminate the typical stereotypes with lowriding like the gangbanging and the violence that is assumed with it,” describes Solano. “In the past three years there hasn’t been a single altercation, we are showing the community of Los Angeles that we can gather peacefully and that the stereotypes that have been pushed on us are damn near non-existent.”

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