Angelica Montanez has reached out to local venues in Carson City that organize car show events, but she has never gotten any replies. “Once they hear that you are a lowrider, they turn the other cheek. We have the same passion for cars, but we are a Hispanic community with a passion in our hearts to show off our culture through our cars,” she said.
Fathers, uncles, and even mothers and aunts have kept that culture alive by teaching and passing the tradition down to the younger generations.
“I grew up in this culture. My dad was in the Escorts Car Club in California from the late 70s until the 80s. Growing up, I would go to car shows with my whole family. They would put on shows and other events within the community. This tradition and culture will always be in my heart,” said Montanez, the only female member of the Primero Car Club, Reno chapter.
During the mid to late 1940s, the lowrider culture started to pick up in Los Angeles, California. The idea is to lower the car’s body, place it onto 13 inches of white wall wheels, and Cruise Low and Slow, the lowrider culture’s motto.
With glows of brilliant colors, geometric patterns, and a velvet interior, these are primarily tributes to family and history. Lowriders are considered masterpieces by the community. As cultural and new modern styles change, so did the style of these masterpieces, by adding custom hydraulics that can be height adjustable by the owner’s command.
“I have a 64′ Impala. I’ve had it since I was 19, and now I am 44. This paint job took about four years to complete, and it’s something different that I had wanted to do all my life. From the chrome suspension to all the little accessories I have added, they are all rare custom parts that are hard to come by. It’s my passion,” said Rich Castro, who’s been a member of the Impala Car Club for 26 years.
The hard work of maintaining a Lowrider will occupy the mind of most youths and adults and keep them off the streets. Omar Solis, an active member of Primero Car Club, at the age of fifteen, had a minimum wage job at McDonald’s, but he started to work and built his first car.
“My dad had gotten me a 86′ Cutless. With my minimum wage job, I could develop my vehicle little by little. I had to save up, and by the end of the year, I could get something for my car. It was like Christmas,” said Solis.
Films like Boulevard Nights and American Me have “placed a rotten name” for those devoted to the lowriding culture in the shadows. They seem to leave out the history and cultural pride these men and women have for their community.
“I joined the Impala Car Club because I saw this wholesome group of guys doing a lot for the community,” said Impalas Car Club president of the Reno chapter, Kevin Bland. The Impala Car Club has helped its community by putting on food, coat, and backpack drives for those who require assistance.
“The one thing I wish I could change is the misconception of who we are. We have businessmen, firemen, teachers, and all walks of life within our chapters,” said Impalas Car Club president of the Portland, Oregon chapter, Rene Ortiz.
This community is working hard to re-brand itself by showing support for every community. Car clubs like Impalas and Primero have always helped out their communities. They hope to find a space to hold workshops for the youth to teach how and what it means to have a lowrider while trying to help keep them off the streets.
“Many people have this false narrative about us who own a lowrider, and we have to work extremely hard to uphold a car like this; it’s just not easy. I might look rough with all my tattoos but deep down I’m just the same as any other car enthusiast,” said J.T. John Tomaroy, Alma Latina Car Club member.
The Lowrider community isn’t just about the cars but about the person who drives them and the struggles they had to face to be where they are now. Many of these individuals had to work very hard to provide not only for themselves but for their families as well.
“Even with all my health issues and visual impairments which keep me from being able to cruise my ride, my wife loves lowriding too, so she drives them now. I thank God that she shares the passion I do. I’ll always love cars and will always be a lowrider for life. I couldn’t do any of it without the love and support of my wife and daughter,” said J.T.
This community hopes that next year and in coming years, they will be able to join in on more car shows. “I would like to be recognized and included for upcoming car shows within the community. We all have different looks and styles. We are always supporting any festivities, just like everyone else, and we love cruising,” said Adrian Montanez, who has been a member of the Primero Car Club for about two years.
“I think we have proven by showing up and having a good time, and not causing any problems. We are all about cars. We don’t get that respect. We still get that look like we are not good enough for them,” said Sal Herrera, who has been with the Impalas Car Club for 28 years.
Alejandra Rubio is a visual artist who works with photography and mix-media. She embeds herself into different cultures and subcultures to share their voices, experiences, and inflections, giving viewers a respectful glimpse into their unique worldviews, concerns, and aspirations. She is a member of the Yavapai-Apache Nation and grew up in Camp Verde, a rural river valley in northern Arizona.
Founded in 2020, the Sierra Nevada Ally is a self-reliant 501c3 nonprofit publication with no paywall, a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, offering unique, differentiated reporting, factual news, and explanatory journalism on the environment, conservation, and public policy, while giving voice to writers, filmmakers, visual artists, and performers. We rely on the generosity of our readers and aligned partners.