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Multicultural Roots Project

The Multicultural Roots Project was created to increase visibility for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in Sonoma County, with a particular focus on Santa Rosa; and to recognize, through historical stories from BIPOC, contributions and impacts that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Working with local historians and community partners, Community Engagement staff gather stories and facts about local BIPOC leaders, as well as historical events and places that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County into what it is today. Each month, we will share five of these stories with the public through multiple communication channels, including the City’s website, social media and this newsletter.

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Apr 26

Women Cruising their Way to the Top of the Lowriding World

Posted on April 26, 2022 at 2:13 PM by Danielle Garduno

Web_WomeninLowriding

Lowriding has historically been a male-dominated space, and it is common to see men involved in lowrider car clubs and cruising into car shows with their Chevy bombs, Impalas and Crown Vics. At one point in time, women were not allowed to participate as members of lowrider car clubs and were only involved by supporting and cruising alongside their fathers, husbands, sons or brothers. Some women would model at car shows and for lowrider publications. However, now more than ever, women are out in the community cruising their own lowriders. Many women, particularly women of color from marginalized communities throughout Sonoma County, are carving out a space for themselves in the local lowrider community. They are following the trend that is occurring in other communities in California such as San Jose and Los Angeles, and even globally as seen in Japan. Seeing more women buy, restore and cruise their cars in the last decade has empowered a whole new generation of women to take on lowriding as their hobby and passion.

Santa Rosa native, Raquel Sanchez, sat down with us to talk about her experiences as a woman in the lowrider community. “Females are growing in the lowriders community. It’s nice to see. With old cars something always has to go wrong; they have to open the hood and put in the work which shows men that women are part of the culture,” said Raquel. 

Raquel’s love for lowriding began at a young age, working with her father on his Chevy Camaro. Through trial and error, she learned to identify all the essential tools needed to work on these types of cars. About 11 years ago, Raquel was finally able to purchase her own lowrider. She describes her 1968 Chevy Impala as a sparkling rainbow. She named him “El Camaleon” because it changes colors as it turns. “It is a multi-color flake because the flakes are all different colors,” Raquel stated. She has put in a lot of work into her car including rebuilding the engine twice, swapping out the rims, changing the headlines, improving the interior, and adding airbags. 

At first, bringing her car out into the community was a challenge. When she pulled up to car shows, men would always assume it was not her car. She would often get asked “Is that your man’s car?” and would quickly correct them, “No, it’s mine.” With time, they continuously saw her pulling up to shows and other events which made her presence known in the lowrider community. She advises women interested in the lowriding scene to “keep pushing even if people believe you do not belong there.” 

Women in the lowriding community like Raquel encourage others to be involved and work hard to empower and support one another. There is no need to be discouraged as not all women grew up in the car scene; some were inspired by the women involved now. This passion is opening doors for women and allowing them to see there is more to it. “It no longer has to be about modeling only, but also being involved by owning the cars. This is inspiring younger women to do the same,” says Raquel. Women are making the gradual transition from modeling to now “rolling in” as a club. There are many car clubs all over the state, including The Rolling Rosies of Sonoma County and Las Duenas in San Jose. These female car clubs admire one another's cars, give back to their communities through volunteer work, and empower each other to keep pushing and making a presence in the lowriding community. 

Most women in the low riding community are hoping to pass this passion on to their daughters. They are starting by teaching their little ones about it now. Raquel says that lowriding is a way of connecting with your loved ones; it is a way to teach them something new and to mentor them. The lowriding culture is getting big and it is going to continue to grow. For many women involved in lowriding, it is also a way to connect to their cultural identity and a way to connect with other women with similar interests.

In the Sonoma County lowriding community it is all about respect and how you hold yourself in the community. Raquel spoke about how the Sonoma County Lowrider Council as a whole has changed the stereotype of lowriders having no jobs, being deadbeats, and being involved in criminal activity. They are changing the narrative around lowriding to include the fact that there are many lowriders who are professionals in this community and help the community through their jobs and through volunteer service. In addition to that, lowriding is family oriented and family centered. 

Women who are interested in joining the lowriding community are encouraged to come out. There are many events all over Sonoma County like Cruising Down Mendocino, Cars and Coffee on Saturday mornings, and Sunday cruising. The Sonoma County Lowrider Council holds an annual Cinco de Mayo on the first Saturday in May. This year, it will be held on Saturday, May 7 from 2-5pm at Doyle Community Park. It is all about making a presence. “Come out, introduce yourself, be respectful, and there will be no problems. It is all about respect,” says Raquel.  

The women involved in lowriding are helping the culture grow and demonstrating women empowerment. They will continue to share their voices and their stories to inspire women to want to do it too. It is all about leaving behind a legacy for women to keep growing and breaking down barriers. 

To learn about other stories of women in lowriding, check out:

La Prensa Sonoma. Ladies changing lowrider culture low and slow in Santa Rosa

L.A. Taco. Not Just Models: Meet the Ladies of L.A.’s Thriving Lowrider Scene (photo compilation) 

University Times, California State University – Los Angeles. Women Behind the Wheel: The lowrider ladies of Los Angeles

Lowrider Role Models. Japanese Women in Lowriding: Kay Kaoru

Raquel Sanchez was interviewed by Daniel Chaparro, Community Outreach Specialist, and Rocio Arjon, Community Engagement USF Intern.