Wedged between two national forests and split by the Rio Grande sits Española, New Mexico. With a population just over 10,000, and an economic relevance that peaked when the railroad rolled through in 1880, you wouldn’t expect much more than Southwestern small-town tourist fare here. All the more surprising, then, that it’s become the Lowrider Capital of the World.
It started small, 60 years ago. The lowrider scene had already taken root in Los Angeles, a new car culture born of rebellion. Its brash, flashy, low-and-slow mantra served as an act of defiance by Chicanos who had long been told to keep their heads down, work hard, and assimilate into the white American mainstream. Lowriders were an outward statement that they weren’t content to blend in. They had arrived, they had a culture all their own, and they wanted people to know it.
That resonated in Española. The town, sometimes called “Little L.A.,” has deep ties to the Hispanic and Chicano communities of Southern California. Families that had been in New Mexico for generations would head west seeking opportunity and return with money and a taste of California culture. Lowriders were a natural fit for Española, a continuation of the artistic tendencies that had defined Northern New Mexico for hundreds of years.
If I wasn’t getting ready to move ahead into something all-electric in the next 3 or 4 years, I’d be tempted. I roll wayback into hot rod days in the 1950’s. My fave would be a seriously chopped and channeled 1950 Mercury 2-door coupe. Not likely to go with the classic flathead innards. More likely an OHV Caddy mill, Studillac-style.