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Eppie Martinez with Cindy Pacheco and Lisa Romo in his 1963 Chevy Impala

Robert Morales with his 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix

Eppie Martinez’s 1963 Chevy Impala in front of his shop

Right, Eppie Martinez inside the office of Ray’s Hydraulics

CHIMAYO ROAD KITTY LEAKEN

N I S I U R C

Los Guys’ early 1950s-era dump truck in Chimayó

E T R O N L E G

These elegant anachronisms of the road have been cruising the highways and dirt roads of Northern New Mexico for decades. They were once regarded as the inventions of miscreants and hardly worth a passing glance, but they have gradually assumed a more respectable reputation. Thanks to the diligent efforts of generations of aficionados, lowriders are coming into their own as a symbol of the Hispanic cultural identity of the region as evocative as homegrown chile, rural adobe architecture, and the Spanglish dialect. Lowriders ply the streets of many New Mexico towns, but the epicenter of lowrider culture in El Norte (Northern New Mexico) lies in the Española Valley, including outlying rural towns like Chimayó. Here, individuals and commercial garages make lowriders out of all kinds of vehicles, from classic old “bombs” (the large, rotund American cars from about 1930 to 1955) to fin-flaunting late ’50s Chevys, from sleek Impalas and El Caminos to Cadillacs. I’ve long admired lowriders for their beauty and workmanship, but I haven’t understood much about them or the people who cruise them. My search to find out more led me to Española’s lowrider impresario, Andres Valdez, who gave me a list of names and places to visit in the Española Valley.

Hopping in Chimayó I start with a trip to Chimayó, a place I know very well, and make my way to Ray’s Hydraulics, a small garage in the plaza of La Cuchilla. There I meet Epimenio Martinez, aka Eppie, who explains to me his fascination with customizing cars: “I grew up with car work, and I owe it all to my dad, Ray. When I was 12, he gave me my first car, that one right there,” he says, gesturing to a 1953 Chevy Bel Air in front of his shop, its hood propped open. “My dad let me have that car to fix up before I could even drive. I been working on cars ever since — and now I got all these people working with me, and we’re keeping pretty

2012 Bienvenidos 4 7

Profile for The New Mexican

Bienvenidos 2012 Summer Guide to Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico  

Bienvenidos 2012 Summer Guide to Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico

Bienvenidos 2012 Summer Guide to Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico  

Bienvenidos 2012 Summer Guide to Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico