Take a Trip with “Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods”

Photo: BBBAD50, owned by Victor Martinez, Chimayo, 1990. Annie Sahlin, photographer. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2013.12.

Perhaps it is due to the vastness of the land that the car has become an integral part of American identity, becoming a symbol of self-determination and the power of free will, an expression of one’s identity and a showcase for personal style. In the southwestern corner of the country, the lowrider has become just this; more than a mere mode of transportation, it is a way of life and a form of art that celebrates the creative spirit of Nuevomexicanos.

Also: “Lowrider Summer” Kicks Off With a Celebration of Art

To celebrate, the New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, hosts Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico now through March 5, 2017. The exhibition, curated by Daniel Korashek, features an extensive collection of photographs by Don Usner, Annie Sahlin, Jack Parsons, Sam Adams, Norman Mauskopf, Dottie Lopez, Gabriela Campos, Meridel Rubinstein and others. In addition, it also includes classic cars, a chromed and touchable engine, miniature-scale model-car collections, trophies, memorabilia and other ephemera.

1963 Chevrolet Impala, Owner Lee Cordova of Alcalde, NM, 1998. Jack Parsons, photographer. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2007.11.

1963 Chevrolet Impala, Owner Lee Cordova of Alcalde, NM, 1998. Jack Parsons, photographer. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2007.11.

Lowriders are built as works of art, expressions of faith, to honor the dead, bring families together, center a marriage and, most important, provide a proud ride. What makes lowriders distinct is the way in which the suspension has been lowered to inches from the ground, requiring the drivers to go bajito y suavecito (low and slow). Truly, these cars are a profound and powerful expression of he power of individuality, both of the group as a whole, and if its participants who carve out their space in the world.

Kosharek is no mere outsider looking in; his love for the lowrider is personal. His first car was a 1957 Chevy two-door hardtop in matchstick color—royal blue on bottom, baby blue on top. He observes, “I’m convinced there are two kinds of people in the world. “Those who drive for the purpose of getting from point A to point B, mere transportation if you will; and people like me who drive cars to, well, drive cars. Two types of people, two world views. This exhibit is about the latter: People who express themselves through pride in their ride.”

Lowrider Car Show, Española, 2000. Sam Adams, photographer. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2012.18.

Lowrider Car Show, Española, 2000. Sam Adams, photographer. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2012.18.

The exhibition also features a 1983 Chevy Monte Carlo owned by Orlando Martinez Jr., an Española resident and one of the Museum’s security officers; a 1948 Chevy Fleetline owned by Albert “Sonny” Jaramillo of Santa Fe; a 1931 Fort hot rod owned by Pete Vigil of Chimayó; and the 1950 Mercury “Johnny Tapia lowrider” once owned by Albuquerque’s late boxer and now owned by Chuck Montoya of Albuquerque.

The exhibition, which is being held in conjunction with Con Cariño: Artists Inspired by Lowriders at the New Mexico Museum of Art (through October 9, 2016), brilliantly elevates this homegrown car culture, celebrating its skilled craftsmanship and commitment to family and community, providing a beautiful celebration of authentic Mexican-American culture. ¡Orale!

Swimming In Gold Flames. 1933 Form Coupe with a gold-flame paint job at the Taos Autumn Run Car Show, 2005. Photo by William "Bill" Davis. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2015.60.

Swimming In Gold Flames. 1933 Form Coupe with a gold-flame paint job at the Taos Autumn Run Car Show, 2005. Photo by William “Bill” Davis. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives HP.2015.60.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.