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Smile Now, Cry Later: After 42 Years, Lowrider Magazine Will Cease to Print

1:48 PM PST on December 11, 2019

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he Jalopnik headline posted by our contributor Gab “The Wolf of Long Beach” Chabrán in our Taco newsroom made our street-hardened hearts drop faster than a ‘64 Impala at the Las Vegas Super Show: “TEN Publishing Kills 19 Automotive Print Publications Including Automobile.” 

    And there it was, below other pioneering enthusiast giants like Automobile, the ninth bullet point camouflaging with the rest of the officially now-defunct print publications, Lowrider.  

    It’s the end of an era.

    What started as a DIY zine by San Jose State University students Larry Gonzalez, Sonny Madrid, and David Nunez celebrating emerging lowrider culture in the 1970s went on to be a cultural icon in the U.S. and beyond. While there was some initial speculation that the magazine will still exist online from the original report on Folio, the future of the iconic publication is still unclear. As of the publication of this post, there has been one story published on Lowrider's website on December 9th—three days after their overlords announced it was shuttering the magazine.

    Alex Blazedale, L.A. Taco’s Founder and Publisher put it best: “There would probably be no L.A. Taco without Lowrider.” 

    “It was a window into a culture a lot of us used to see it as kids. It was an inspiration for many because it celebrated a subculture with passion and humor.” Through the magazine, L.A. Taco became friends with Jae Bueno, who was a longtime Lowrider contributor who also covered car shows for us until his tragic death. It was also through lowrider culture that Erwin Recinos, one of the site's longest-serving contributors and our Senior Staff Photographer, came on board. 

    Recinos remembers being introduced to Lowrider magazine as a youngster in the 80s living in South Gate. “My interest in reading lead me to liquor store magazine stands that held periodicals such as MAD, Cracked, Rolling Stone, Beckett, VW Trends, and the infamous shrink-wrapped porn. That was my social media.”

    “I read all the stories in Lowrider and the photos of the events, builds, centerfold spreads and stories are what stuck with me and shaped my affection for photography. Bueno also introduced me to L.A. Taco, may he rest in peace, and Lowrider, too.”

    Famed photographer, Mike Miller can’t believe the decision came now: “There is an all-time high interest in lowriding and custom classic cars and it made it through some of the worst years for printed mags. RIP Lowrider Magazine. I hope someone buys it to keep it goin’.”

    Denise M. Sandoval, known as “The Lowrider Scholar,” breaks down what the loss means at the academic level. 

    One of the most important contributions of Lowrider Magazine is the creation of a medium/tool that not only spread lowrider culture globally, but also created an intimate, cross-generational, and multicultural community for all lowrider lovers. The early issues of the magazine in the late 1970s and 1980s were also an important Chicana/o history book of events, people, and issues our community faced which was due to the connection the original founders (Sonny Madrid, Larry Gonzalez and David Nunez) had to the Chicano Movement and the politics of San Jose State. For them and us, it was a magazine for and by Chicanos which is also significant. Even though the print magazine ends, the lowrider movement will continue and I am excited to see what the next generation creates on social media or maybe smaller grassroots magazines and zines.

    Bajito y Suavecito por vida!

    Joshua Greenspan, the owner of Greenspan’s Clothing, one of the lowrider community’s biggest suppliers of clothing in southeast Los Angeles, feels for the entire lowrider community who depended on print because online simply isn’t an option. “Such as in countries that block access to U.S. websites or publications,  and for the incarcerated. We would get a high volume of letters from the people locked up, and some of it about purchasing clothes only but most of it was people just reaching out because the pictures we would put out there reminded them of the better times they had growing up. Besides Streetlow Magazine, [Lowrider shuttering] opens a void where it leaves room for some low rate lowrider culture magazine to come in.”

    Noe Adame, L.A. Taco’s San Fernando Valley correspondent, worries about the future generations of youngsters from the barrio who will never find Lowrider magazine on the shelf while going for a beer run at 7-Eleven. “Lowrider inspired so many youngsters who would go on and ignore the prevalent gang lifestyle of the 90s in lieu of working on their vehicles. The magazine was much, much more than just pin-up models and cars.”

    However, Estevan Oriol, L.A.’s influential street photographer, keeps it real with L.A. Taco and does offer a bit of solace in the sad, Lowrider print-less world that awaits us all. “This loss will not affect the community as people like myself are keeping this culture alive. The tangible loss the physical magazine and subscription for people without the internet is a hit to the community. You can still see Lowrider mag on social media but it won’t be the same.” 

    “Don’t trip I got you. My book on lowriding from the last 25 years is coming in 2020. I had a lowrider before a camera.”

    Updated on December 12, 2019, with Sandoval's quote. 

    Erwin Recinos contributed to this report. 

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