Jorge Rojas López says that like the hippie counterculture movement of the 1960s, bikers and their reputation for being rough, tough and rebellious is uniquely American.
But that did not stop Rojas, 61, and about three dozen other Mexican nationals from traveling as far as 900 miles to attend an event in Austin that celebrates the fierce independence and individuality of the Lone Star State, the Republic of Texas Biker Rally.
Billed as one of the largest rallies of its kind in the country — rivaling similar events in Sturgis, S.D.,and Daytona Beach, Fla.— the rally draws more than 35,000 people from across the world, promoters said.
The event, which celebrated its 19th year when it was held this month, included performances by the 1980s metal stars Twisted Sister and the Mötley Crüe front man Vince Neil. It also featured, for the first time, performances by Mexican motorcycle acrobats, part of a national club called the Confederación Internacional de Motociclistas Oficiales y Policías de Caminos. The group includes members of regional clubs, like Dorados de Villa in Ciudad Juárez, of which Rojas is a member, across the border from El Paso. Others come from Mexico City, Nuevo León, Querétaro and Guadalajara. The group’s performers are daredevils who mount one another’s shoulders, ride backward on front-end rims or form human pyramids on two motorcycles as they cruise along a designated route. By day, they are professors, teachers, police officers and businessmen.
“The biker is from here, the real biker, and this is a Mexican expression of that culture,” Rojas said. But the Mexican signature, he added, is the acrobatic element. “We don’t see them dominate the bike the way the Apaches dominated the horse better than the Spaniards,” he said.
Rojas, a criminology professor and the rector of the Universidad Cultural in Ciudad Juárez, said the performance transcended the tumultuous histories between Texas and Mexico.
“From my sociological point of view, Texas is really a mixture of cultures,” he said. “Mexicans, we don’t harbor resentment. To the contrary, we see this as a cultural expression. The culture is universal: it doesn’t have borders or limits, it doesn’t have a color. We’re citizens of the world, and as such, we understand this cultural expression.”
Alejandro Galán, the national group’s leader, acknowledges the history but uses it as a punch line instead of a point of contention.
“We’re here because we want to take it back,” he joked, referring to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, under which Mexico in 1848 lost its northern territory to the United States.
The state’s Chicanos, Americans of Mexican descent who identify with both cultures, say the Mexican bikers are a welcome addition to the Texas event.
Mikey Rodriguez, 42, is a member of the Latin Lords MC, a group from Baytown, near Houston. This was his 13th visit to the rally. In previous years, the Mexican riders would caravan in, wearing Mexican wrestler masks amid a cheering crowd. That they make the trek, he said, is not surprising.
“When you’re involved in this lifestyle, you travel left and right,” he said.
Rachel Salas, 36, a Latina and native of Lubbock, said the Mexicans were as welcome as anyone else and just as embraced.
“Everybody gets along, I think that’s a good thing,” she said. “Everyone is very friendly, almost too friendly.”