Lowriders are much more than just decked-out automobiles. The distinctive elements of the custom vehicles—their sidewalk-scraping stature, powerful hydraulic lift systems, decorative paint jobs, and well-appointed interiors—are all rooted in Mexican-American pride. The subculture, which emerged in southern California in the middle of the last century, was born out of a desire to stray from the predominant Anglo car culture and create something uniquely Chicano. In the 1970s, Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles was a veritable auto show every Saturday night as lowriders cruised the strip. As opposed to the speedy hot rods favored by whites, lowriders were driven at a leisurely pace that allowed them to be properly admired.
The Chicago Urban Art Society’s Slow&Low: Community Lowrider Festival attempts to continue the tradition. Now in its sixth year, the fest was created by CUAS cofounder Peter Kepha, who was inspired by what he calls the “driving works of art.” What began in 2011 as a small gathering of local enthusiasts has become larger and more popular than Kepha imagined. He says it’s “gone from 40-plus cars and a handful of people to 200 to 300 cars and 2,000-plus people.” There’s a significant presence of lowrider bicycles and motorcycles as well.
In addition to all the eye candy, the daylong event includes Mexican food, DJ performances, a marketplace, and an awards ceremony honoring, as Kepha puts it, “the mastery that’s put into these vehicles.” —Emily Wasielewski
Slow&Low: Community Lowrider Festival
Sunday 8/6, 11 AM-8 PM, 2200 S. Loomis, chicagolowriderfestival.com. $5, free for children under 13.