Lowrider culture is an important piece of Mexican American tradition

Lowrider culture started in Los Angeles in the early 1940s and has since become an international phenomenon. It’s also a big part of the culture in San Jose where Lowrider Magazine was created over 45 years ago.  

Ricardo Cortez says Lowrider culture is about style and taking pride in building something unique. So, through his lowrider tech workshop and his children’s book, he wants lowrider tradition to live on for the next generation.  

"I’m a member of New Style Car Club which was established in 1974" said Robert Gutierrez. 

Lowriding is a family affair for Ricardo Cortez and his father-in-law Robert Gutierrez. Cortez says lowrider culture is an important part of Chicano or Mexican American history in California.  

"I think the most beautiful part about it is this was an innovation that was created in the barrios of Chicanos. Now we see how globalized this culture this lifestyle has become from California all the way to Japan," said Cortez.  

Last year, Cortez created the 408 Art Lowrider workshop for teens as a Creative Ambassador for the City of San Jose. Cortez has also written a children’s book, The ABCs of Lowriding, which explains the history, technology and important people in lowrider culture.  

"This is Sunny Madrid, founder of Lowrider Magazine in 1977. He’s from San Jose, went to San Jose State University and right after that he started the Magazine," Cortez said.   

"It’s all about style, about attitude, and kind of being a representation of yourself as a manifestation through a vehicle," Cortez said.   

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Cortez and the United Lowrider Council of San Jose also believe lowriding is often judged unfairly. They say most Lowriders follow traffic laws and simply want to show off their customized cars. After San Jose lifted its 30-year cruising ban, the Council is now lobbying to lift cruising bans across the state.  

"Instead of fighting every city one at a time, now we’re one big swoop. Just repeal it in the whole state," said David Polanco, President of the United Lowrider Council of San Jose. 

Assembly Bill 436 would legalize cruising statewide and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. In the meantime, Cortez says he’ll keep creating and educating people about lowrider culture.