Inspiration is a rare commodity in our society these days. Even rarer are the times when that inspiration actually forces action, and even rarer still are the moments when that action transforms into a destiny. These are the instances when we say that a person has come "full circle." Everything they have experienced in life has in turn come back to them, almost as if it was all part of a bigger plan to shape their ultimate reason for living. For some of us, our Lowrider passion for cars is just that; a passion. For Old Memories Denver Chapter President Fred Perez of Brighton, Colorado, the Lowrider Culture has truly engulfed his lifestyle and shaped the visionary man he has ultimately become. His Chicano heritage and life lessons he has learned throughout his career in Lowriding have propelled him to become the most precious of all resources for his community: a teacher.
While it would seem to make sense to compare him to legendary Latino educator Jaime Escalante, since they are both educators of Latino decent, doing so would be doing them both a great disservice. They are both very different individuals with different student age groups and teaching methods. What binds these two great men together? Its their genuine love for who they are, and where they come from? These men represent La Raza, they are part of the Gente, and they both realize the urgent need for higher education and better opportunities within their respective communities. The similarities stop there, however. After all, there are no murals of Fred Perez in Los Angeles, California. There is no "Stand and Deliver"-style Hollywood film starring Edward James Olmos that depicts his life and his service to his community. There are no community centers named after him, and no teaching awards given out in his honor. After spending an afternoon with him in his beautiful Northern Colorado home, it is evident to me that there should be. He deserves every bit of the accolades that past Latino leaders have received, and then some. Just like Chicano leaders shown in the "500 Years of Chicano History" poster that adorns his classroom, Fred Perez is a living, breathing, valuable part of that history. In fact, he is every bit as influential as Jaime Escalante, Hernán Cortés, Anthony Quinn, and the other Chicano leaders that his curriculum-based poster depicts, as he provides his students with a pride in who they are, and most importantly, he equips them for a successful future. In a society of all talk and no action, Fred Perez instead leads by example, encouraging his students to succeed and gives them the guidance they need to become our future leaders.
Respectful of the individual privacy of our interview subjects, I spoke with Fred briefly over the phone to coordinate a meeting time and place for our interview. Our goal as writers is to make our interviewees as comfortable as possible in order for them to feel open enough to communicate their stories to us. Fred chose a Starbucks Coffee shop located on the old 85/87 highway, 25 minutes north of Denver as our destination. Having been a resident of Colorado myself for 25 years and a student at the University of Northern Colorado, I was quite familiar with the location and his home community of Brighton, Colorado. As Fred arrived we shook hands and I felt a warm connection with him immediately, as he insisted we move the interview to his home, which was located just a few miles north of where we were. I agreed and hopped in my car eager to follow him to his home, already thinking about how nice it was for him to actually let me into his private world. It was just a glimpse into the champion of a man that I was about to meet, and what I saw next made my jaw drop to the ground lower then a parked '64 equipped with air-ride.