Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

Woman wearing black jacket and jeans crouching for a photo next to piece of artwork featuring a lowrider card.

Spotlighting Lowrider Culture in Watsonville

Above: Watsonville Film Festival Director Consuelo Alba stands next to a piece of artwork by artist Maggie Yee that will be featured in the exhibit More Than Cars: Celebrating Lowrider Culture. Photo by Sandina Robbins.

In March 2024, More Than Cars: Celebrating Lowrider Culture, will bring an engaging series of public events focused on lowriding culture to Watsonville and audiences online. Led by the Watsonville Film Festival (WFF), a non-profit arts organization, More Than Cars was recently awarded one of 14 Humanities for All Project Grants, a California Humanities program that supports vibrant public humanities experiences around the state.

Since the 1940s, lowriding has been a source of pride and a symbol of cultural affirmation, self-expression, ingenuity, and resistance for Chicano and Mexican American communities across the state. Eight decades later, with global recognition soaring, the bans that were placed on lowriding in many California communities have recently been lifted. 

“This grant comes at a great time in history,” says WFF Director and independent filmmaker Consuelo Alba. “As of January 1, 2024, cruising is no longer a crime in California, thanks to intensive lobbying from Lowriders. Now, like the rest of the world, we can see Lowrider culture for what it is: art on wheels.”    

Photo of a large group of people posing for a photo
The Watsonville Film Festival planning meetings happened on December 18 and January 15 with more than 50 members of the Lowrider community coming out to share their art, stories, and historic memorabilia. The exhibit, More than Cars: Celebrating Lowrider Culture, will be at the Pajaro Valley Art Gallery from March 10-June 30, 2024. Photo courtesy of the Watsonville Film Festival.

WFF has partnered with local car clubs and enthusiasts to exhibit their artwork, music, photographs, and memorabilia that reflect how Lowrider culture is a symbol of pride and ingenuity that brings generations of families and community together. Named for the California Humanities-supported project, the exhibit More Than Cars: Celebrating Lowrider Culture will include contributions from five local car clubs and individual riders in Watsonville, along with distinguished artists Juan Fuentes, Guillermo “Yermo” Aranda, and photographer Tyrone “Malow” Diaz. The WFF has also partnered with California State University, Monterey Bay to preserve a collection of Lowrider oral histories in a digital archive.  

Group of women gather around ephemera laid out on a table.

Women lowriders of the Classic Memories Car Club at community gathering in Watsonville, February 26, 2024.

Courtesy of Consuelo Alba.

Final gathering of the lowrider community in Watsonville in preparation for More Than Cars, February 26, 2024. This successful gathering saw more that 75 people in attendance.

Courtesy of Consuelo Alba

Large group of people mingling in a room

Mark your calendars for the opening exhibit reception on March 10, which is sure to be a bustling community gathering followed by a car show and cruising. The Watsonville Mayor will also present a Proclamation to each of the five Lowrider car clubs in recognition of their creativity and community service.

More Than Cars Opening reception: Sunday, March 10, 2024 from 1-4 pm, followed by a car show from 4-6 pm | Pajaro Valley Arts Porter Building, 280 Main Street, Watsonville

More Than Cars exhibit run: March 10-June 30, 2024

The landmark film La Mission, which portrays a charismatic leader of San Francisco’s Lowrider community, was the inspiration for creating the art exhibit. La Mission, starring Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order) and Erika Alexander (American Fiction) and directed by Peabody Award winning director Peter Bratt, will be the featured film at the WFF’s 12th Annual Watsonville Film Festival on March 7-9. The Festival presents a powerful selection of films that “challenge stereotypes and reflect the diversity within the Latine experience–from drag queens reading at story hour to an indigenous soprano singer from Oaxaca.”

“This Festival was created to counter Hollywood’s often narrow and negative portrayal of people of Mexican and Latine heritage,” says Consuelo Alba. “Watsonville hosts the only film festival between LA and San Francisco that focuses on our stories. We choose films with universal themes told through the lens of Latine filmmakers.”

Save the dates for these exciting public events, and visit WFF’s website to see the full schedule.

12th Annual Watsonville Film Festival: March 7-9, 2024 at the CineLux Green Valley Theater in Watsonville, and online for the week of March 11-17, 2024

Promo graphic for the Watsonville Film Festival, with cutout of a teal lowerider car and several supporter logos

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