The story behind New Mexico’s lowriders

A new collection examines the elaborate cars and their place in Mexican-American culture.

  • Eppie clowning with his ’64 Impala, Chimayó, 2012.

    Don J. Usner
  • '56 Chevrolet Pickup, Owner Joseph Martínez of Chimayó, 1998.

    Jack Parsons
  • Randy Martínez Mural, 2015.

    Don J. Usner
  • Joseph Chacon's 1981 Coupe Deville Daccy, Tomasita's Second Annual Lowrider and Custom Car Show, 2013.

    Katharine Egli
  • David Vigil and Ramón Esquibel, Chimayó, 2015.

    Don J. Usner
  • Precision, 2014.

    Dottie Lopez
  • Elmo Sánchez with his '50 Chevy, 2012.

    Don J. Usner
  • Impala Verde, 2013.

    Dottie Lopez
  • Oldsmobile Cutlass Three-Wheeling at Mainstreet Showdown, Española, 2015.

    Don J. Usner
  • '72 Buick Riviera, Owner Adam Garcia of Las Vegas, 1998.

    Jack Parsons


A procession of lowriders glides down the highway, chrome glinting in the sun and the New Mexico landscape rolling past. The photo, from 1980, is part of a collection of images by photographers featuring the elaborate cars and their special place in Mexican-American culture.

The photographs in ¡Órale! Lowrider, by Don J. Usner and Katherine Ware, celebrate the Impalas, Chevrolets and Fords as personalized works of art rather than just status symbols: black-and-white portraits of men and their beloved cars, a bride and groom in a motorcade, a colorful icon of Our Lady Guadalupe airbrushed on a hood. “Each vehicle embodies a story, sometimes in a painted mural memorializing a lost loved one or depicting a narrative of struggle and redemption,” Usner writes. The project documents the decades-long evolution of styles in New Mexico’s lowriders, a unique cultural tradition that is, as Usner puts it, “redolent with memories of extended family, community and place.” 

¡Órale! Lowrider: Custom Made in New Mexico
Don J. Usner and Katherine Ware
179 pages, hardcover: $39.95.
Museum of New Mexico Press, 2016