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Jess Swanson, Senior Editor
Jess Swanson, Senior Editor
Apr 2021

Hot rods and dragsters go fast, but lowriders go low and slow—the only pace for onlookers to appropriately admire the sleek paint jobs, chrome embellishments, spoked rims, whitewall tires, bouncing hydraulics and custom upholstery. “It’s a rolling piece of art,” says Carlos Muñoz, an automotive painter who has helped organize Santa Fe’s annual Lowrider Day since May 2016. “These cars are a canvas and the crazy paint jobs I put on them is my artistic expression.”

1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme / Credit: Grace Martinez

A parade of more than 150 lowriders will cruise past Santa Fe Plaza to celebrate the May 1 debut of the New Mexico Lowrider Arte & Culture exhibition at the Santa Fe Place mall, featuring 15 lowrider cars as well as photographs and paintings by local artists (through June 30). “People think we’re gang members,” says organizer Grace Martinez, “but it’s a generational family affair that breaks down barriers and brings people together.” Muñoz, who has been interested in lowriders since he was 10, adds: “Some folks have passed cars down to their kids and grandkids.”

1963 Chevrolet Impala / Credit: Double Barrel Photography by Corey Ringo

Many people associate lowriders with Los Angeles’ Chicano culture, but the lowrider capital of the world is actually the small town of Española, New Mexico, a half-hour north of Santa Fe. Martinez, who grew up in Española, says the cars seemed to be everywhere. “Everyone had a lowrider,” she says. “You went to school in one!” Her decades-long obsession has been inherited by both of her sons, who also own lowriders. “We’re part of this beautiful culture that runs deep,” says Muñoz. “It’s not a hobby—it’s how I survive.”
newmexico.org/lowriders

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