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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lowriding Through New Spaces


Although lowriders may be a familiar image, many people merely label these custom cars as a manifestation of gang culture rather than seeing them as a Chicano cultural production. The former view dismisses the rich background that informed and led to the creation of lowriders. This paper argues that the creation of lowriders is not a manifestation of gang culture, but instead reflects efforts to create a space that expresses Chicano identity informed by inequality and segregation. The lowrider is a way of symbolically and literally traveling beyond segregated spaces that marginalize Chicanos, giving rise to Chicano pride and power. Lowriders also express Chicano identity through their abstract and representational painting, for example the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a significant Chicano icon, which is often painted on lowriders. The lowrider is more than a vehicle; it is a representation and display of Chicano identities informed by experiences with inequality, segregation, and resistance.

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