New Mexico Lowriders and Classic Cars

If the Santuario de Chimayó is the "Lourdes of America," so Chimayó is the "Lourdes of Low Riders," the unique, contemporary Hispanic car culture of Northern New Mexico.

“Low and slow” refers to the cruising style of custom automobiles whose bodies hover only inches above the ground. Lowriding requires no destination, no deadline, nowhere to be. It is about being seen, living large, and about cars that display feats of acrobatics—some of these hydraulic-equipped creations can jump 10 feet or more into the air. It's not unusual to see entire extended families piled into a single lowrider for a leisurely drive through the streets of Northern New Mexico towns such as Española and Chimayó.

While it is possible that the history of New Mexico lowriders reaches back to the early 20th century, recorded lowrider culture dates to the 1950s. Artists of lowriders explore the importance of their faith, family, culture and creativity through their distinctive custom cars. Lowrider artists, such as Randy Martinez of Chimayó, spend thousands of hours expressing their personalities through these cars. Naming cars is popular, with names like La Bomba, Royal Elegance and Stitches. The car name is a point of pride among these artists who lovingly airbrush religious imagery onto glossy hoods, install powerful suspensions and tricked-out hubcaps and outfit spotless interiors with diamond-tuck upholstery and chain steering wheels.

One of the best examples of lowrider culture, style and artistry is rooted in Chimayó but on permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. This '69 Ford LTD, called Dave's Dream, commemorates the life and faith of David Jaramillo and includes a family portrait of the Jaramillo family on the doors. The car was blessed by a priest at the Santuario de Chimayó in the presence of more than 500 well-wishers before it was transported to Washington, D.C.

Lowlow's Lowrider Art Place, a gallery located near the Santuario de Chimayó, displays and sells the work of Chimayó artists LowLow and Joan Medina. Their paintings, murals, handmade jewelry, culinary products and other items illustrate the passion and artistry that goes into each car.