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Lowrider culture exhibition opens at University Museum

Lowriders lined the parking lot outside Kent Hall Friday as faculty and students gathered to celebrate a new museum exhibit that features a culture not often seen in academia. 

The newest exhibit featured at the New Mexico State University Museum opened on Friday, Sept. 8. The exhibit “Low and Slow: Lowrider Culture on the Border” describes the history of lowriders along the borderland region. The exhibit is a collection of items including kid-size cars, artwork, bicycles and outfits such as a zoot suit.  

A Chevrolet lowrider with custom hydraulics appeared in the parking lot outside Kent Hall Friday, Sept. 8, as lowrider hobbyists and fans gathered for the opening of the “Low and Slow: Lowrider Culture on the Border” exhibit at the University Museum. The exhibit is scheduled to run through the end of the year. (Photo by Nathaniel Bitting/Kokopelli)

The exhibit was curated by Norma Chairez-Hartell through a collaboration with various car clubs from the southern border region. 

“I wanted to put up an exhibit that usually isn’t seen in this academic setting,” Chairez-Hartell said. 

Lowriders typically refer to drivers of highly customized cars that often are set low to the ground. These vehicles can be designed as an expression of the lowrider’s creativity and inheritance, and they are often modified with custom paint, engravings and hydraulics.

Lowrider culture became popularized during the late 1940s and early 1950s as a pastime for many young Mexican American men. Originating in Los Angeles, lowriders cruising the streets in style eventually spread across the Southwest region and into the borderlands.  

According to Greg Uranga, president of the Las Cruces Viejitos Car Club, the lowrider community today is open to a wide range of cultures,  A recent event hosted by the Viejitos in northern New Mexico attracted over 600 attendees from across the nation. Uranga’s club members also attended Friday’s exhibition to represent their culture. 

“It feels really good,” Uranga said. “It’s something different, and it brings a new environment to Las Cruces.”

People gather around a collection of lowriders at the “Low and Slow: Lowrider Culture on the Border” exhibition grand opening event at Kent Hall Friday, Sept. 8. The exhibit will be on view at the NMSU University Museum for the remainder of the year. (Photo by Nathaniel Bitting/Kokopelli)

Sophia DerGregorian, an NMSU student, said she came to the event to learn more about the lowrider community. “I think like when you grow up in Albuquerque you see [lowriders] all the time and you know about it, but there’s a lot that you still just don’t know,” DerGregorian said.

Another NMSU student, Emma Alvarez de la Rosa, also attended the exhibition’s grand opening. “I thought it was really nice that they were showing another part of New Mexico that is really important and usually gets glanced over or even put down.”  

The exhibition will remain on display in the Kent Hall eastern wing for the remainder of the year. The College of Arts and Sciences will host a “Night at the Museums” event on Thursday, Sept. 14. The event will feature games, activities and a tour of all on-campus exhibits including “Low and Slow.” 

For more information on the “Low and Slow” exhibit and where to buy tickets for a Night at the Museums, visit the College of Art and Sciences events page.  

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