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Lowrider enthusiasts changing laws and perceptions about their cultural expression

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Posted at 3:33 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 16:33:57-05

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Many people in the Latino community have a special bond with lowriders.

"When I'm in my car and I smell the exhaust or I hear a certain song, it just takes me back in time and I hope those are things my kids will always remember," said lowrider owner, Shavolla Rodriguez.

Lowriding is not just an obsession for car owners, they say it's been a form of self-expression for Latino communities all over the country for decades

"It's a Sunday afternoon, you go out for a cruise with the family. Before you know it, you see one of your friends," said Israel Ramirez. "That's what makes this lifestyle so fun. The camaraderie of it, the family atmosphere."

These cars are both a time capsule as well as a family investment, but the family and culture-focused practice has not always been viewed as such.

For over three decades, some Latino communities felt targeted by city ordinances banning cruising. They believed their culture was not wanted, which further propelled stereotypes that lowriding was linked to illegal activity.

"In the late 80s, they amended our state vehicle code to allow cities and counties to ban cruising, and a number of cities did, including Sacramento, based on a lot of stereotypes," said Joe Ayala, a lowrider owner and lawyer.

Ayala is also a member of the Sacramento Lowrider Commission. In 2022, the group pushed to get the ban overturned, calling it outdated. With skills from his day job, he helped other members find their inner persuasiveness, and finally got the ban on cruising overturned.

"I hope to lift these bands across the states and across the country that it opens people's eyes to our culture and it's not so stigmatized," said Shavolla.

More cities are following suit and the group is working to prevent bans from being established again. With the spotlight the group and culture is getting from these changes, they hope more people will understand and enjoy the art of lowriding.

"They're all around and people who enjoy them, they're just like everyone else," said Ayala.