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Arts & Culture

31st Annual Low Rider Festival at Centro Cultural Aztlan

Photo: Photos by Jim Mendiola, License: N/A

Photos by Jim Mendiola

Victor Stewart and his 1939 Chevrolets

Photo: , License: N/A

Victor Stewart teaches his son to sand paint.

A few years after the Centro began sponsoring the lowrider show, the arts center went to the City of San Antonio for funding to expand the public event. The City was skeptical. We can’t give public money for a car show, they told the Centro.

Ramón Vásquez y Sánchez, then the artistic director of the Centro, and the originator of the Lowrider show, had a counter argument, “I told them,” he said, “that this is mobile public art coming from the barrio.’’ 

The city agreed. They gave Centro Cultural the grant.

Lowrider shows these days come in two basic varieties: shows promoted for money and shows promoting cultura. Sponsored spectacle versus content. Bikini babes versus family fun. Sort of like Hollywood blockbusters competing against indie movies. Not that there’s anything wrong with Spider Man 4, but sometimes it’s great to have a little Mosquita y Mari thrown into the mix. The only people making money off the big lowrider shows are the sponsors. 

As Bobby Garza from the Rollerz Only Club explained it, an out-of-town weekend show means at least four days away from home. This includes setting up the show car, travel, the event itself, and the return trip. Factor in the cost of gas, hotel nights, and sprucing up the car, and a $500 dollar prize for best looking Impala seems pretty paltry.

The focus of Centro Cultural’s Lowrider Festival is recognized by many of the lowriders themselves as being a different kind of show.

“It’s a family event you can bring your kids to,” says Manuel Galván of the OG Traditions car club, “They give back to the community.”

Back in Victor Stewart’s garage, the veterano gets his car ready for the upcoming weekend show. 

On his garage wall hang all the various plaques representing the local car clubs Stewart has joined at one time or another. It’s a snapshot representing the long and rich history of lowriders in San Antonio: The Dutchmen; Low N Slow; Road Jivers; City Style; Hustling Chariots; The Gear Grinders; Alamo City Rods; and the club Stewart started way back in the day, 1979, the 1st Impressions, the oldest car club in San Antonio.

He shows me a few photos of his son. 

In one picture from a photo album, Stewart teaches the six year old how to sand paint off a car. In another photo, this one off of Stewart’s smart phone, he shows me his now grown son’s own lowrider, an award-winning 1939 Chevrolet Laser Deluxe painted Day-Glo orange. Stewart has taught his son all that he knows, passing the lowrider tradition on to the next generation.

Low Rider Festival

$7 adults, free 14 & under
11 am-7pm Sat, April 7
Centro Cultural Aztlan
1800 Fredericksburg
(210) 432-1896

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