If you want to go cruisin’ down the street in your six-four in the Rio Grande Valley, you better not do it in San Juan. An ordinance passed by city leaders outlawed the practice of driving slowly down a street to show off your custom car—as well as banning business owners from letting car clubs use their parking lots as a place to meet.
As The Monitor reports, San Juan police spokesman Sergeant Rolando Garcia claims that the ban on cruising comes after some local business complained that the presence of car clubs in their parking lots made their shops inaccessible to customers who weren’t interested in checking out anybody’s rims or paint job.
“We starting receiving a lot of complaints from businesses along Raul Longoria regarding the car clubs cruising up and down Raul Longoria,” Garcia said. “We ended up noticing that on Thursday nights we used to have hundreds and hundreds of cars driving at 10 miles per hour up from the Expressway all the way to Owassa Road.”
That’s a three-mile stretch of Raul Longoria Road, a strip dotted with businesses that—among others—include car-club-friendly shops like AutoZone and O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.
Banning cruising in a place like San Juan may not be a huge deal, in terms of the impact that it has on the actual car clubs—if you kick ’em out of San Juan, most likely people can congregate and cruise in nearby Pharr or Alamo, given the geography of the region. But just because there are other places to meet doesn’t make these rules fair, according to Valley car club members. The Monitor spoke to “Whiteboy Chris” about what he sees as profiling of custom car enthusiasts:
Chris Schneider, who’s been a car club promoter for two decades and helps run the Facebook page Cruise Nights in the 956, which posts local car club meetups, believes the ordinance is unfair.
“It’s profiling and that’s illegal,” Schneider said. “That’s the biggest issue, is that it’s a profile thing and it’s like putting labels on people.”
Schneider, who goes by Whiteboy Chris in the custom-car scene, said San Juan police had been telling car club members since last September that they couldn’t meet in parking lots, including one time when he received permission from the owner of a hotel where he was staying.
It’s also worth considering what the definition of “cruising” is here, or what constitutes an unauthorized car club meeting: If you just happen to be driving slowly down Raul Longoria Road, are you “cruising,” or do you need to be in lowrider? If you’ve got a group of people sitting in their station wagons outside of a hotel, are they an illegal car club, or do they need to have twenty-inch rims, too?
In other words, those who feel like the ordinance is discrimination against them for the way they look—or, perhaps, the way their cars look—could probably make a compelling argument.