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Española declares itself ‘Lowrider Capitol of the World’

SANTA FE, N.M. — Española is now officially declaring itself the “Lowrider Capitol of the World,” after years of using the phrase as an informal designation.

Española also has memorialized its status as a “cruise-friendly municipality” under a resolution passed by the City Council last week. The self-designation comes after several cruisers said they were harassed by Española police on Good Friday, a popular day for cruising in Española, in March.

“The City of Española proclaims itself the Lowrider Capitol of the World and a cruise-friendly municipality,” the resolution declares.

The resolution, at least in the draft form available online, does in fact use the spelling “capitol” – which refers to a government building, like the Roundhouse – and not “capital,” meaning the city that serves as a seat of government, as Santa Fe does for New Mexico.

A Buick Regal, left, and a Chevy S-10 pickup are posed at last year’s first Española Lowrider Show. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

MTV News’ Kurt Loder dubbed Española the “Lowrider Capital of the Country” during a 1993 news feature on lowriding in Española. But the city’s proud claim to be even the global capital has been used regularly in recent years, in the face of standard lowrider histories that trace lowriding’s roots to Southern California and its mid-20th-century hot rod culture.

Española already has a Lowrider Day, and a lowrider museum is in the planning stages.

The new City Council resolution is titled “A Resolution to Promote Responsible Cruising in the City of Española. ”

It says cruising “is deeply ingrained in the Culture of the Southwest and woven into the cultural fabric and heritage of the City of Española,” but that “responsible cruising must not threaten the health, public safety and welfare” of the town.

The Española weekly Rio Grande Sun reported that a few cruisers said at a city Public Safety Committee meeting on Good Friday this year that they were forced by police officers to disperse from several areas where they had congregated, even though some of them claimed they had a city permit to gather.

That’s not an ideal look for a city that has billed itself a lowrider destination.

“The last incident was very crowded and a few officers wanted to make sure things didn’t get out of control, and maybe they didn’t need to, and it upset a lot in the community,” said City Councilor John Ricci, who sponsored the resolution, this week.

Ricci said he held a forum on the issue at the Plaza de Española in late April or early May, with about 30 people attending, including ranking officers from the Española Police Department and the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office.

“We let the community speak and this (the resolution) is what came out of it” Ricci said.

The resolution says there will be designated parking areas for cruisers around the city, although specifics still need to be worked out. There are public spaces throughout the city, such as parks and the Plaza, but Española Mayor Javier Sanchez said businesses might have to be given notice ahead of big cruising events where riders might be congregating near storefronts.

“That’s going to get a little tricky,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of businesses that are pro-lowrider and understand it’s part of our culture. Cruising is a part of our culture and we want to do it safely. A lot of businesses recognize how key that is.”

Several calls to the Española Chamber of Commerce were not returned earlier this week.

A lot of people come to the Española area for Holy Week as part of the famous pilgrimage to the nearby Santuario de Chimayó. But visitors are treated to old-school cars with candy paint jobs hopping up and down the streets.

Many in Española hope the lowriding tradition keeps people coming to town.

“People are embracing these cultural and traditional events,” Sanchez said. “These people get excited about it. I really think that when we and other communities embrace what is important to them, people will embrace that.”