December 17, 2004

Big bikes. Big hearts.

Photos and text by Luis Alonso Pérez

You could hear the Harley-Davidsons from blocks away. All over Tijuana biker caravans where cruising their way downtown, proudly showing the name of their club on the back of their leather jackets. Some where riding alone, others with their wives, but they all gathered in Revolución Avenue to support the “happiness Caravan” children event.

More than 7,000 kids happily returned home with a toy, because of the support from motorcycle clubs from southern California and Baja California, especially from the legendary biker club Solo Angeles de Tijuana, which has made this event possible for nineteen years straight.

Bikers started arriving on Revolución Avenue since early Sunday. They all parked their motorcycles on the street, like a big bike exhibition that began under the Tijuana arch and ended in front of the Jai Alai building. Their antennas waved banners with the names of their clubs: Vagos, Jaguares, Aztec Riders, Unknown Locos, Weasels, just to name a few.

Hundreds of families gathered in front of three platforms located all along the street, where they raffled bicycles, little trucks, dolls, teddy bears and many other toys. Dozens of rugged bikers announced the winning numbers and handed out the gifts to children.

“El Suzuki” one of the event’s organizers said that in end almost every kid gets a toy. “At least they take home a small one” he said, while resting on the back of a pick up truck, watching how his work had made very happy thousands of Tijuana kids and hundreds of bikers that walked along Revolucion Avenue with their crew, their wives or their families. They where having lunch in the restaurants near by, having some beers and smoking Cuban cigars that can’t be bought on their side of the border.

According to the Tijuana biker, this event was originally created to clean up the club’s image, but after 19 straight years of hard work, Solo Angeles have won the respect of the community and the love of thousands of low income families that come every year so their kids can get a gift, that otherwise they might not receive.

The event is about to end, but Juana Ruiz still has the raffle tickets in her hand, listening to the winning numbers. She has a smile on her face because her youngest child Alejandro just won a bicycle. Juana came with her two children and three nephews from Colonia Independencia, and wants to go home, but she is still facing the platform, hoping another one of her tickets gets a prize.

Mrs. Ruiz thinks these events are very good and she is very grateful because the gifts make her kids and her happy, “my children’s happiness is also my happiness”.

During the event a biker dressed like Santa Claus was handing out candy from a leather saddle placed on the bike handles. Before giving it away he said “I’m only giving candy to the kids that have been good, have you been good?” Everyone nodded yes and raised their hands to receive a treat.

But this Santa doesn’t belong to any biker club. He is a local chemistry, physics and math teacher from Lazaro Cardenas high school. Besides instructing the hardest subjects, he is also a football referee. “With all of my classes, football games and the science club I don’t have any time left to join a motorcycle club”.

Even if he is one of the most hated teachers among high school students, on this day little kids wanted to give him a hug. Hundreds of Tijuana families joyfully walked through Revolucion Avenue while they took pictures of their children on top of big bikes before going back home.

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