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"This is how it should be."

Low riders and more at the 48th annual Chicano Park Day

Dream car: Shorty’s 1960 Chevy Impala
Dream car: Shorty’s 1960 Chevy Impala

“You see this? This is how it should be,” says David Sanchez III.

He’s leaning over and pointing to the exaggerated solid chrome wheel rim of a black 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air that’s sitting on its rear haunches, nose in the air. It has the welded chain-link steering wheel, 520-s tires with the one-inch whitewall, and these solid chrome rims with a half-moon hub.

We’re at Chicano Park, here in the Barrio, at the end of the 48th annual Chicano Park Day, and guys are standing round, talking their specialized low rider talk.

David Sanchez explains his favorite rims

“You see, this is how they were in my dad’s time,” David’s saying. “The best rims! Supreme, Cragar, Rocket. The baby moons and half-moons. Then, spoke rims started coming in. Alliance. Star Wire. Me, I don’t care for spokes. My dad was part of the Tijuana scene. United Browns Car Club. He had a ’49 Chevy Deluxe. Chop-top. Paid me 50 cents to polish it every weekend. And he was the first to go into pearl paint. He brought it right up here in 1974 and won Best in Show! From TJ? Those San Diego guys were shocked.”

Me, I’m in love with another car, with its pearlescent red paint, the perfect chrome sweep of its stanchion-free side windows, the full spare tire in the scarlet and chrome shell behind the winged trunk. And yes, those four ruby-tipped hydraulic sprout levers on the driver’s side that will make this baby tip up, tip down, go high, go low.

Problem is, this 1960 Chevy Impala belongs to Shorty. Shorty transformed it. Shorty had the magic touch. Supported by his buddies in the Amigos Car Club. People say some of the machines here are worth 40, 60, 100 grand, with their combination of antiqueness, technical wizardry, artistry, and flare.

Lizeth Duenas, peyote proponent

But it’s not just cars that keep you here. Lizeth Duenas is selling jewelry to raise money for bees to pollinate the endangered peyote cactus down in San Luis Potosí, so it can deliver relief for different illnesses, even though, up here, it’s recognized only as a hallucinogen. A guy named Sergio is loudly predicting World War Three, quoting a Hopi named Ahkima. A gal in full Aztec regalia is waiting for her mom to start a dance demo.

It takes a moment to remember that almost 50 years ago, there was no Chicano Park. In 1970, authorities had just demolished over 5000 Barrio Logan homes, to make way for Interstate 5 and the Coronado Bay Bridge. People were feeling disrespected. So they formed human chains around bulldozers, held a 12-day occupation, and won the right to a park.

As I leave, Sergio, the voice of the Hopi prophet, is speaking in Nahuatl. “‘Ta zo camahti!’ ‘The sun will shine upon us again!’”

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Dream car: Shorty’s 1960 Chevy Impala
Dream car: Shorty’s 1960 Chevy Impala

“You see this? This is how it should be,” says David Sanchez III.

He’s leaning over and pointing to the exaggerated solid chrome wheel rim of a black 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air that’s sitting on its rear haunches, nose in the air. It has the welded chain-link steering wheel, 520-s tires with the one-inch whitewall, and these solid chrome rims with a half-moon hub.

We’re at Chicano Park, here in the Barrio, at the end of the 48th annual Chicano Park Day, and guys are standing round, talking their specialized low rider talk.

David Sanchez explains his favorite rims

“You see, this is how they were in my dad’s time,” David’s saying. “The best rims! Supreme, Cragar, Rocket. The baby moons and half-moons. Then, spoke rims started coming in. Alliance. Star Wire. Me, I don’t care for spokes. My dad was part of the Tijuana scene. United Browns Car Club. He had a ’49 Chevy Deluxe. Chop-top. Paid me 50 cents to polish it every weekend. And he was the first to go into pearl paint. He brought it right up here in 1974 and won Best in Show! From TJ? Those San Diego guys were shocked.”

Me, I’m in love with another car, with its pearlescent red paint, the perfect chrome sweep of its stanchion-free side windows, the full spare tire in the scarlet and chrome shell behind the winged trunk. And yes, those four ruby-tipped hydraulic sprout levers on the driver’s side that will make this baby tip up, tip down, go high, go low.

Problem is, this 1960 Chevy Impala belongs to Shorty. Shorty transformed it. Shorty had the magic touch. Supported by his buddies in the Amigos Car Club. People say some of the machines here are worth 40, 60, 100 grand, with their combination of antiqueness, technical wizardry, artistry, and flare.

Lizeth Duenas, peyote proponent

But it’s not just cars that keep you here. Lizeth Duenas is selling jewelry to raise money for bees to pollinate the endangered peyote cactus down in San Luis Potosí, so it can deliver relief for different illnesses, even though, up here, it’s recognized only as a hallucinogen. A guy named Sergio is loudly predicting World War Three, quoting a Hopi named Ahkima. A gal in full Aztec regalia is waiting for her mom to start a dance demo.

It takes a moment to remember that almost 50 years ago, there was no Chicano Park. In 1970, authorities had just demolished over 5000 Barrio Logan homes, to make way for Interstate 5 and the Coronado Bay Bridge. People were feeling disrespected. So they formed human chains around bulldozers, held a 12-day occupation, and won the right to a park.

As I leave, Sergio, the voice of the Hopi prophet, is speaking in Nahuatl. “‘Ta zo camahti!’ ‘The sun will shine upon us again!’”

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Comments
1

Great article. It would be neat to see The Reader do a full history of the park. A lot of white folks and especially all of these out-of-towners, do not understand the significance of such an event; which also lead to the first free clinic in Barrio Logan and host of other non-profits that sprang up from the Chicano movement. Orajle Carnal!

May 3, 2018

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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