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Dedicating "Dave's Dream"

David Jamarillo, a coal miner and lowrider from ChimayĆ³, NM, died in an automobile accident in 1978 before finishing the conversion of a nine-year-old Ford LTD. His wife and members of his extended family decided to continue work on "Dave's Dream" as a memorial. On April 4, 1992, "Dave's Dream" received the blessing of a Catholic priest in a special ceremony in ChimayĆ³. The following poem, "I Am Who I Am," was read at the ceremony.

I am from the past, heading for the future.

You do not know of me,
But I know of thee.

My voice, my words, hold a story,
So listen and learn of my mission.

Of our heritage, destiny, unity, not our division
The way of the street, drugs--our poison.

Keep your heart and mind clean,
Like a lowrider, beautiful and clean.

The looks, the style, like nothing you've ever seen,
I am! I ride low and slow, carrying beauty wherever I go.

Yes! I am a lowrider, a part of my machine, so enjoy,
It's my style--my baby, my love and Joy!

I hope you've listened and seen the picture I've painted,
You may, if you wish, hop into my lowrider.

Coming from the past, I head for the future.



In southern California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and other western states, people in Hispanic communities often transform old cars into customized lowriders. Since the 1950s, and especially since the early 1970s, lowrider clubs have flourished in the American Southwest. The lowrider--which refers to both the owner and the car--modifies the frame and suspension to lower the car, rebuilds the engine, installs a special hydraulic system to make the car "dance," reworks the body, refinishes the car with custom paint, and reupholsters the interior. Usually, little evidence remains of the car's original identity. The lowrider wants others to see the car for what it now is--"clean and mean," reborn as a work of art.

Lowriders do not race their cars, they parade, "low and slow," so the cars can be appreciated. The parade is a "paseo," a cruise. The hopping or dancing of the car is a way of giving it life. Exhibiting at organized car shows is an important part of lowriding; the cars are judged for mechanical ingenuity and workmanship, hopping ability, artistic execution in the paintwork, and creative design.

Regional variations in design are apparent. Most lowrider paint jobs are complex and elaborate in any part of the country, but with differences. Lowrider cars from northern New Mexico often show a spontaneous, "painterly" quality, with Latino motifs. Cars from East Los Angeles, on the other hand, usually show a more studied, formal look in their carefully planned paint scheme--they look "more Hollywood," in lowrider terms. Cars from Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, and other cities display other regional preferences in design.

Non-Latino observers sometimes express puzzlement at lowriding. But the "shade tree" mechanic is an old tradition, and self-expression by means of auto ownership is not unknown to other Americans. Lowriding takes the American love of the automobile and immerses it in Latino values of family and art to produce something new. Instead of working in the often solitary style of the hot-rodder, lowriders prefer to work on their projects jointly with family and friends. Instead of high-speed racing, lowriders prefer the slow parade. Instead of "performance" in conventional terms, lowriders prefer the fun of car hopping. Instead of basking in the supposed aura of favorite automobile-company brand names, lowriders prefer to create a unique work of art.

Today, lowriding includes bicycles modified by pre-teenagers with special forks and suspensions, paint, and decoration. These bikes often have their own judging categories at lowrider shows. Older lowriders are now modifying pickup trucks to have hydraulically-actuated cargo beds that pop up and "dance." Hopping contests at lowrider shows now include cars that can bounce not only at the front or rear, but on three and four wheels.


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