A line of trucks driving down the street carrying the Mexican flag
The San Jose Police Department will have its own lowrider car at Cinco de Mayo festivities this weekend. File photo.

San Jose police will take a different approach with Cinco de Mayo festivities to mend the relationship between law enforcement and residents after last year’s actions, which some deemed racist.

The community has organized a 300-vehicle lowrider parade on Sunday to pay homage to the Latino roots and history of East San Jose, a hub for lowriding since its initial popularity in the 1940s. The San Jose Police Department will take part in the cruise with its own lowrider — a far cry from last year’s highway ramp closures which city and state leaders called racist and discriminatory for singling out Mexican Americans during the cultural event.

“SJPD has been working collaboratively with the United Lowrider Council of San Jose in creating a safe and vibrant Cinco de Mayo celebration this year,” a police spokesperson told San José Spotlight.

Last year, SJPD, Caltrans and California Highway Patrol closed 10 highway ramps, jamming traffic and making it nearly impossible for residents to get to and from festivities. Councilmembers Peter Ortiz, Domingo Candelas, Sergio Jimenez and Omar Torres called for increased communication between police and the community in the wake of the city lifting its decades-long cruising ban in 2022. SJPD officials spoke against lifting the ban at the time, saying it helped stop dangerous activities such as sideshows.

Ruben Mendez, president of lowrider club Eastside Riders SJ who has been cruising for more than 35 years, said he has hope this year’s festivities will go better than last year.

“I understand that there’s a few knuckleheads that are ruining it for everybody, but we just (have) to learn to not single out the whole group for one person,” he told San José Spotlight. “There’s a lot of good people out there that go out there with their kids, their grandkids, their girlfriends or wives.”

There will still be road closures this year along Barack Obama Boulevard, West Santa Clara Street and part of South Market Street encircling Plaza de Cesar Chavez on Saturday. Partial closures are also planned Sunday for East Santa Clara Street, South Market Street and South King Road, including the Highway 680 ramps. Caltrans and CHP will help with the ramp closures.

But Councilmember Ortiz said the police have kept their word and increased communication with residents. He has met with the community regularly, including the office of San Jose’s Consulate General of Mexico and the United Lowrider Council of San Jose, to prepare for the event. He said police have worked with stakeholders along the way. SJPD began sharing maps of the planned closures a month before the celebrations.

“We’re expecting it to be a smooth event and we encourage everyone to come out and experience the east side, enjoy tourism and make an event that everyone can remember,” Ortiz told San José Spotlight.

In addition to road closures, residents could see diversions to reduce traffic along East Santa Clara Street, South Market Street, South Fourth Street, South 10th Street, Alum Rock Avenue, King Road, Story Road, South Jackson Avenue, Ocala Avenue and Tully Road. Ramps along Highways 87 and 101 and Interstate 280 could be affected. Roosevelt Park will also be fenced off as usual due to resident concerns of vandalism and public drunkenness.

Mendez, whose dedication to lowriding began with a 1964 Chevrolet Impala, said his club will cruise the streets in the parade this weekend. He said the event is meaningful to him and the community, especially after they put so much time and money into their cars.

“It’s been in my blood. It’s in my family. It’s a thing that my uncle taught me that I’ve been involved with ever since,” he said. “It’s a passion for me.”

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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