And the National City Mayor is joining them
By Barbara Zaragoza / Southbay Compass
After many decades of clashes with the city council and police department in National City, lowriders again take Highland Avenue by storm, this time packing the parking lot of Foodland Mercado on Highland Avenue for Taco Tuesdays to show off their hoppers and show cars.
On Tuesday, July 28th even the National City Mayor, Ron Morrison, attended. He strolled past the vintage cars and posed for a picture with lowriders from several different car clubs.
Mayor Morrison said, “This is like an art fair because these cars are more like art than anything else.”
During the 1970’s, 1980’s and into the 1990’s Highland Avenue was famous for cruising on the weekends. Lowriders would pack the streets bumper to bumper along this 1 ½ mile stretch. However, business owners and residents often complained. The National City police created checkpoints to deter traffic pile-ups. By 1992 the city council also passed a no-cruising ordinance. Mayor Morrison explained that despite the ordinance, cruising still didn’t fully stop along Highland Avenue until about the year 2000.
The relationship between the police, politicians and lowriders changed in 2004 when Adolfo Gonzales became National City’s Police Chief, the highest-ranking Hispanic in San Diego County law enforcement at the time. He wanted to open his doors to lowriders, so the Lowrider Community of San Diego formed. It’s purpose was to shift the lowriding scene from cruising to community events.
Today, five board members sit on the council, including Mayor Ron Morrison, Victor Gonzalez from the National Latino Peace Officers Association, Adolfo Gonzales who became the Chief of the District Attorney’sBureau of Investigation in 2013, and Manuel Rodriguez, the National City Chief of Police.
Gonzalez also in 2004 asked Mayra Nuñez to sit on the Lowrider Community of San Diego as community liaison. A National City resident and case manager at the probation department working with female juveniles and females on probation, Nuñez has organized many of the community events, bringing lowriders out to display their cars for good causes.
“We started out giving Thanksgiving dinners to families. We started out with 20 families back then and now we’re doing 75 to 100 every year,” Nuñez said.
The owners of Foodland Mercado, a Chaldean family of six brothers, also agreed to host a Christmas toy drive, where lowriders would fill the back parking lot with their cars while families joined in the fun. The toy drive is still an annual tradition up to this day.
Recently, the Foodland Mercado owners worked with Nuñez to host a new summer event: Taco Tuesdays. Co-owner Chris Dallo said, “Most of the people who come out are locals. People get off of work and bring their families down and enjoy the rest of the day.”
The car clubs Klique, Switch, Crowd CC, Just II Lowe and Dukes enter the parking lot and display their pristine pieces of art. Some owners have worked over twenty years to bring their cars up to the highest standards, with every nut and bolt replaced and restored.
“Our mission is to bridge the gap between law enforcement, local car clubs as well as the community. Just erase the negative stigma it has had throughout the years,” Nuñez said.
Taco Tuesday continues throughout the month of August from 5pm-8pm at Foodland Mercado, 303 Highland Avenue, National City. The public is welcome to attend.
(All photos by Barbara Zaragoza)
Ed. note: post updated 8/5 and 8/6/15 to correct the spelling of some of the names and to provide additional info on the participating car clubs and to clarify Mayra Nuñez’ role as on the Lowrider Community of San Diego as community liaison, not as a member of the advisory council as previously posted.