Lowrider Culture

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Although there is some debate over the genesis of lowriders, L.A. native Ron Aguirre is often credited with pioneering the practice of adding hydraulics to automotive suspension systems. As one Dallas journalist pointed out, however, “If you go to Santa Fe there are some that would say [lowrider culture] began there. If you went to San Antonio they would say it began there. If you went to East L.A. they would say it was born there.”2

By the late 1970s, Española declared itself the lowrider capital of the world. Neighboring Chimayó is also noted as an epicenter of lowrider culture. No two lowrider vehicles are alike. Each is a manifestation of the beliefs, values, and image of its creator. Hispano men and women in New Mexico and throughout the Southwest began to create them as a manifestation of their unique heritage and place in U.S. culture following World War II. Lowriders are an art form.

In 1999 Carmella Padilla published a study of New Mexico lowrider culture titled Low ‘n Slow: Lowriding in New Mexico. Jack Parsons contributed breathtaking photos of lowriders across northern New Mexican landscapes, and Juan Estevan Arellano’s poems help readers connect to the spirit of lowrider culture. On the heels of an offensive political gaffe in which Governor Gary Johnson suggested that the creators of lowriders made him uncomfortable, and in conjunction with the publication of Padilla’s book, the governor declared January 15-February 12, 1999, to be New Mexico Lowrider Month.

Additionally, in 1990 the Smithsonian Museum of American History acquired “Dave’s Dream,” a 1969 Ford LTD converted into a stunning lowrider by David Jaramillo of Chimayó and members of his family. Although he died before the car was fully finished, his wife and other family members completed the car as a tribute. In the early 1980s, the car won awards at regional and national car shows. Dave’s Dream epitomizes the community and family orientation of Hispano lowrider culture in northern New Mexico.

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