Above: Juicing a car's hydraulics with up to 16 batteries produces hoppers that can reach heights of 8 feet.

YEARS AGO, someone tagged Española as “Lowrider Capital of the World,” and the label stuck, no matter what Los Angeles and El Paso have to say about it. These days, lowriders thrive in Española, Chimayó, Albuquerque, and other New Mexico towns. But with cars that represent tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of investments, your best bet for seeing them is at an organized car show.

Lowriders from the OG Veteranas women's car club.

As I began taking photographs of lowriders more than a year ago, two things immediately stood out: A true sense of community unites these people; and women stand at its heart. Family-friendly lowrider events combine bouncy houses with tricked-out chrome, sweet rides, and lineups of classic coaches (above). After a winter’s lull, the lowrider homecoming season starts with a Good Friday cruise on Española’s Riverside Drive. (Tip: Pack a folding chair and a camera.) The following day, OG Veteranas, a women’s car club, hosts Community Day, with activities for everyone. In mid-July, Española Lowrider Day fills the plaza with music, food, vendors, and a jaw-dropping, chassis-shaking hopper contest.

Joanna Garcia Maestas and Anamaria Medina

JoAnna Garcia Maestas (above left), a hairdresser at Just for You Styling Salon, in Española, got her first lowrider when she was just 17. She tricked out this 1986 Olds Cutlass, her second ride, with help from her uncle as well as her husband, José Maestas, who’s part of the hopper scene. Artists Arthur “Lowlow” Medina and his wife, Joan, anchor the Chimayó lowrider community, which now includes their two daughters. Anamaria Medina (above right) recently claimed her first lowrider. To see lowrider artwork by each of the Medinas, take a spin up to El Santuario de Chimayó. They’re right next door. The women of the Fleetwood crew were the first to welcome me into lowrider circles. I’m grateful to Monica Lopez, Bridget Archulelta, and Janette Quintana. 

Lowlow Medina (left and below in blue shirt) leads prayer circles outside the car wash on Riverside Drive before cruise nights. Members of various car clubs join the fellowship, including the women of OG Veteranas (at bottom). With their families, they support the lowrider community all year through food and clothing drives, and work with other car clubs on special events. For decades, wrenching on lowrider cars—and bicycles—has been a way to keep kids involved in a positive activity. That community support helps preserve the pillars of Hispanic life, familia y fe (family and faith). Map out your visits to lowrider events by following Facebook pages such as New Mexico LowRiders, Lowlow’s Lowrider Art Place, New Mexico OG Veteranas, and SouthWest Promotionz.

Lowlow Medina and the OG Veteranas women's car club.

Juicing a car’s hydraulics with up to 16 batteries produces hoppers that can reach heights of 8 feet (below top left). Members of OG Veteranas (below bottom) help glue together the lowriding community—and work on their own rides, including this 1986 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham Edition in front of the historic Santa Cruz Church. Automotive workmanship draws a crowd during Española Lowrider Day (below right). 

Members the OG Veteranas women's car club