Sunday, August 20, 2017, the Red Bull Soapbox Race will be making its triumphant return to Los Angeles. In preparation for the event we take a look at The Spirit of Chavez Ravine, a team participating not just to pay tribute to their home city of Los Angeles but also to pay tribute to both Chicano and Lowriding culture.
The Spirit of Chavez Ravine is a team made up of five close friends. Four of the team members were born and raised in El Sereno, California, and have been fascinated with the car culture since they were young. Jesus Abril Jr., Manny Barraza, Jose Soriano, and Ruben Soriano have known each other for the better part of their lives, having gone to school together, played sports together, and worked on cars together. Oney Flores, Abril’s fiancee, spent the early years of her life in Southeast Los Angeles and grew up watching her late uncle work on classic cars in her driveway. The love for cars and the Lowrider culture in general was sparked at an early age for the team. Their parents and family were into cars and naturally the guys wanted to be like their parents.
They began by building lowrider model cars, equipped with metalflakes and candy paintjobs and hydraulics, and would also build lowrider bikes. They were fascinated by the images they saw in Lowrider magazine. Jose and Ruben’s father was into off-roading and they quickly learned how to fabricate parts and work on cars. As the guys grew older, their interest in cars only intensified. Abril remembers hearing stories of his father owning a baby blue 1962 Chevy Impala with a white top and hopes to one day own one just like his father. Soriano currently owns a 1964 Ford Thunderbird and Barraza owns a 1950 Ford Shoebox, which the guys constantly take out to cruise the streets of Los Angeles to indulge in the lowrider scene of the city.
Presented with the opportunity to build a kart for the Red Bull Soapbox Race, the team quickly began brain storming ideas for a concept. When the location of the race was announced, Abril and Flores recalled the history of the location in Elysian Hills and thought paying homage to the barrio of Chavez Ravine would be fitting. Abril, having studied Chicano Studies at UCLA, and Flores, having studied Chicano Studies at Cal State L.A., were well aware of the historical significance of the race location. Today, not many people are familiar with the barrio of Chavez Ravine that existed where Dodger Stadium now stands. The Mexican-American community that called Chavez Ravine home in the early 1900s was displaced and physically removed from the land during the ’40s. “The Spirit of Chavez Ravine is dedicated to the spirit of those who lived in the hills of Elysian Park and the surrounding area. We want to connect to the spirit of the adolescent teens and young adults who expressed their culture through the zoot suit style and through the customization of their cars. We want to connect to the spirit of the pachuco and customize our own version of a 1939 Chevy coupe,” Abril says.
“As Chicanos, we have embodied a duality in our identity: American-born children of Mexican parents. We have learned to balance our culture, our interests, and our lives. The duality of taking an American car and giving it our own style and swag through chopping and dropping it represents our culture. We are huge Dodger fans and are excited about the current success they are earning. And while we are aware of the history of the Dodgers with Chavez Ravine, like many Chicanos in Los Angeles we find a balance to root for the Dodgers and help keep the memory of Chavez Ravine alive,” Abril says. The Spirit of Chavez Ravine invokes the energy of historical Elysian Hills. The cultural bricolage found in Chavez Ravine supplied endless creations to the car culture in Los Angeles. “The pachuco/zoot suit fashion and music of the ’40s and ’50s will offer great ideas for our skit before the race. With Los Angeles lowrider culture being a crucial part of the fabric of the city, we look forward to customizing our own version of a vintage lowrider and cruising, or speeding, down Elysian Hills,” Abril says.
We salute The Spirit of Chavez Ravine and we wish them luck in the upcoming race.