El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano a de Aztlan, MEChA, is a social justice group at Western. They are devoted to fighting for the rights and equal treatment of unrepresented minorities, and 12 years ago, MEChA members chose to prove the stereotypes and assumptions of the Mexican and Latino culture wrong. The annual low rider show at Western, a major event during the Back2Bellingham weekend, was created to do so.
“Some MEChA members were males and they wore baggy clothes, and a lot of people stereotyped them as being ‘cholos’ or Mexi-gangsters, and felt threatened by them,” said Nadia Saldana-Spiegle, co-chair of MEChA. “[People] assumed they were a part of gangs and that they were selling drugs and all of that. The MEChA members decided that they wanted to put on an event to show that they deserve to be here and that the stereotypes aren’t true.”
The 12th annual “Riding Low in the 3-6-0” low- rider show, presented by Western’s MEChA is from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 20 in Red Square. The event is free and family friendly, with entertainment and performances showcasing low riders, as well as Mexican and Latino culture.
“As a club, MEChA [tries] to bring our culture and a little bit of diversity to Western, and we make it free and open to everybody,” said Alanna Francis, co-chair of the low rider show. “It allows people to try new foods, see new dances and see some really awesome cars.”
Low riders are very prominent in the Latino culture, but primarily in the Mexican culture, Francis said. It can be a car, a truck or even a regular bicycle.
A low rider car specifically has specialized parts that are for show, but also for use, Saldana-Spiegle said. Specialized engines, speakers, sound systems, wheels and rims, steering wheels and seats are often a part of a low-rider car.
“People spend a large amount of money on their cars, and a lot of time,” Francis said. “It’s a family thing, sons and fathers work on it. It tends to be a very masculine thing, but we’re trying to involve women a little bit more.”
Aside from the display and contest involving the low-rider vehicles, there are many other aspects to the event.
The entertainment, attractions and performances include two taco trucks, a bouncy house, a local rap artist, traditional Mexican dance performances and food eating contests, such as who can eat the most jalapenos. Western’s Ethnic Student Center is also strongly involved with the group, Francis said.
Other clubs within the center are open to participate and fundraise by providing food, games or anything that pertains to their culture.
The low-rider show stands as not only a fun event, but also a learning experience for MEChA members, Western students and the community as a whole.
“[Low riders have] always been something that’s always been a part of my community,” said Cinthia Medina, MEChA member. “I want to know what goes into the process of fixing your car because I know it’s a very lengthy process and it’s something that’s amazing. I’ve always wanted to know more about the technical things like the building of the car and how much work goes into it.”
In organizing this year’s low-rider show, Saldana-Spiegle continues to channel the roots of the event. MEChA continues to prove they can put on a family event because their culture is all about family, she said.
“We deserve to be here, we deserve to be educated and we deserve to not be stereotyped and we deserve to be seen as non-violent,” Saldana-Spiegle said. “We deserve to be seen as people with families, people who deserve an education.”