New Mexico History Museum


May 17, 2016


Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico 

Author Denise Chavez Santa Fe— Sunday, June 19, 2016 2 pm New Mexico History Museum auditorium Free with museum admission ¡ÓRALE! BORDER LOW & BORDER SLOW with Denise Chavez

In conjunction with the museum’s Lowriders, Hoppers and Hot Rods exhibit, writer and cultural activist Denise Chávez takes a look at the celebratory fronterizo lowrider culture in Southern New Mexico with photo documentation by international photographer Daniel Zolinsky.  Chávez and Zolinsky will address the differences, similarities, and resonant traditions and customs of southern New Mexico, the sometimes forgotten, always highly-charged world within a world. 

Denise Chávez was born, raised and still lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, 42 miles from the México Border. If she didn’t live in Cruces, she would live in Española, New Mexico, “Low-Rider Capital of the World,” where she once lived and taught at Northern New Mexico Community College. Chávez’s most recent novel, The King and Queen of Comezón, won the International Latino Book Award in Fiction as well as the NM-AZ award in Fiction. Other books include Loving Pedro Infante, Face of An Angel and A Taco Testimony: Meditations on Family, Food and Culture, among others. Daniel Zolinsky was born in Paris, France to Franco/Russian parents and learned to take photographs when he arrived in the U.S. at age ten. He considers himself a “Fricano”—A French Chicano. Zolinsky has exhibited his photos throughout the U.S. and Europe and lives in Las Cruces with his wife, author, Denise Chávez.

Captured in photographs, audio interviews, hubcaps, hood ornaments, car show banners and, yes, actual cars, Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico, opened May 1 (through March 5, 2017) at the New Mexico History Museum. Focusing on mobile works of art and their makers—home-grown Nuevomexicanos who customize, detail, paint and upholster these favorite symbols of Hispanic culture.

Photo Curator Daniel Kosharek has pulled together an extensive collection of images by Don Usner, Annie Sahlin, Jack Parsons, Sam Adams, Norman Mauskopf, Dottie Lopez, Gabriela Campos, Meridel Rubinstein and others. Visitors will see a chromed and touchable engine, miniature-scale model-car collections, trophies, memorabilia and other ephemera. The museum lobby will host a rotating selection of cherry examples.

“I’m convinced there are two kinds of people in the world,” Kosharek said. “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.”

After decades of cruising the streets and back roads of northern New Mexico, lowrider cars have come into their own as a symbol of Hispanic cultural identity. They’re as evocative as red and green chile, rural adobe architecture, and the distinctive dialect of New Mexican Spanish. These cars have been celebrated in books and movies, and their creators congregate by the hundreds in car shows throughout the region to show off their works to an admiring public. That phenomenon is only one part of a broad car culture.

The term “lowrider” refers to either a car whose suspension has been lowered to inches from the ground or the person who drives it. In Spanish, it’s bajito y suavecito, or low and slow. Lowriders, the cars, 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. Lowriders, the drivers, require the skill of an engineer, the aesthetic of an artist, and the patience of a monk to create highly personalized, one-of-a-kind, mobile expressions.

Lowriders, Hoppers and Hot Rods seeks to elevate that culture beyond its common stigmas and stereotypes to celebrate skilled craftsmanship and commitment to family and community. Car clubs regularly reach out to local youths, giving them gears-and-wrenches reasons to drive a straight road. We’re opening a door to people of all cultures to mingle, learn and appreciate what it means to engineer a proud ride and hit the road, low, slow and in high style.

Phone number for publication: 505-476-5200

For more information about the museum, log onto

For a high resolution image of Denise Chavez from the Media Center click here.

Media contact: Steve Cantrell, PR Manager, Museum of New Mexico,; 505-476-1144.

The New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Avenue, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is part of a campus that includes the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States; the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library; the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives; the Press at the Palace of the Governors; and the Native American Artisans Program. A division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Museum exhibitions and programs supported by the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.

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