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Lowrider cruise nights are back in San Diego’s South Bay after 30 years

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Jacob Aere
Deanna Garcia's 2000 Lincoln Town Car uses hydraulics to only have three wheels touching the ground, May 6, 2022.

Lowrider enthusiasts from across the region are excited to cruise down Highland Avenue in National City once again.

Lowrider cruising will be allowed in National City on the first Friday of the month now through October. It’s part of a trial period.

“Lowriders (are) anything that you can fix up. It costs a lot of money,” Viejitos Car Club member Teresa Garza said. “Cruising is enjoying what used to happen 30 years back. Which is just cruise the streets with friends, family and stop somewhere to have a bite to eat. ”

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Jacob Aere
Lowriders are parked outside of Sweetwater High School, May 6, 2022.

Friday night’s cruise kicks off at Sweetwater High School, according to Garza, who drives a 1952 Chevy Styleline.

“We heard there’s people from LA, from San Jose, San Francisco, even El Paso, Texas that they will be here. So let’s see if they show up,” Garza said. “We were told at first (to) probably expect about 200 cars, 250. But now everybody thinks it’s going to be like 500.”

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Jacob Aere
Deanna Garcia and Teresa Garza talk to a couple driving by in their lowrider, May 6, 2022.

National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis is looking forward to seeing part of her town’s Chicano culture come back to life.

“With the Chicano-Latino community, lowriding is kind of synonymous with milestones. You have them for your quinceañera, you have them for your weddings, you definitely have them probably for prom,” Sotelo-Solis said. “And it's not only a right of passage, but it's also an investment of your blood, sweat and tears.”

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Jacob Aere
A pair of lowriders drive past Sweetwater High School, lifted on hydraulics, May 6, 2022.

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month, lowriders will be able to cruise down Highland Avenue between Sixth and 28th streets.

Friday’s event marks the first legal cruise in National City since 1992. Now, lowrider groups are aiming to shake their previous negative image and make cruises about family.

“I wanted to be louder than the drugs, than the gangs, than the alcohol, than the streets,” Game Over Car Club member Deanna Garcia said. “So I used lowriding to be that bigger voice, to get my kids' attention and to keep it on me, to show them what hard work really does. To show them what unity is and to show them how everybody in a community can become a family.”

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Jacob Aere
Deanna Garcia stands in front of her lowrider, which is lifted on the back with hydraulics, May 6, 2022.

Garcia said that each lowrider car is specifically fit to embody its owner.

For her, lowriding is about identity.

“The paint job has real 24 karat gold in it," she said of her souped-up 2000 Lincoln Town Car. "My name, my money bag, my dollar signs, my leafing. I had to go in there and be an individual. So that’s why it’s ‘money in the bank,’ because this is my bank right here. This has all my money in it."

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Jacob Aere
The front grill of the "lady hypnotic" lowrider is pictured, May 6, 2022.

In early April, the National City council voted to allow the temporary period for lowrider cruise nights.

“Seeing the lowriders, seeing the vintage vehicles, the efforts that many in our community have put into our cars, generations even. And so we’re really excited to see them come back,” Sotelo-Solis said.

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Jacob Aere
The "Lady Hypnotic" lowrider is parked among other cars at Sweetwater High School, May 6, 2022.

Lowrider enthusiasts are hoping to make the cruises continue long-term after the trial period ends in October.

Lowrider cruise nights are back in San Diego’s South Bay after 30 years

I report on City Heights and communities south of the Interstate 8 freeway. My beat covers housing, transportation, census and immigration policy, and a number of other issues important to these neighborhoods. No matter the topic, I seek the overlooked voices of these diverse communities to tell their stories.
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