In Latino barrios (or, neighborhoods) far and wide, lowrider culture thrives. These corners of Houston have a history imperiled by gentrification, but communities still come together, cruising in cars that are sometimes so low to the ground, sparks shoot out as their bumpers hug the pavement.
Lowriding is a car tradition that has been around for decades, but recently a new generation of car lovers has been capturing and archiving the culture, and its connection to the city’s Latino neighborhoods. They're a loose group of photographers, known mostly by their Instagram handles.
Mike Lazo, who goes by @BrokinSpanish, has been shooting cars for the past two-and-a-half years, with a special focus on Houston’s lowriders and slabs.
On a recent Sunday night at Hardy Yards, an area just past Downtown in North Central Houston, or Near Northside as it’s also known, about a dozen photographers and a handful of lowriders gathered along Leona Street.
“It used to be real barrio here,” said Lazo, referencing the area that was targeted for redevelopment a few years ago. “It’s getting a little gentrified because there’s a lot of new buildings coming out, new apartments, but it’s still barrio to us.”
Lately, these cruise nights – informal gatherings of lowriders; have been coordinated by a collective known as Boyz en el Barrio, which in English translates to “Boyz in the Hood”. The nights bring together the car culture, and a new generation of photographers who pull off pristine shots of cars titled on one wheel, or decked out with gold-plated rims and car roof chandeliers.
The cruise at Hardy Yards followed a major lowrider convention at NRG last month, and brought out photographers and Instagram influencer types from Miami (@Skreefz) and Northern California (@Morticiamuerte). Local shooters like @Harrisshootz, @Stlathird, @Hou.go and @Livefromtheshutter, plus more, came out. It was a familial moment, with some people bringing out lawn chairs to kick back while lowriders and slabs cruised by.
This Saturday, near Montie Beach Park in the Heights, there’s another cruise event planned. As much as lowriding is connected to Latino culture in the West, it’s a culture that attracts people from every background. And here in Houston, it’s no different.
Melo (@Melothemogul), a Black woman photographer, was there at Hardy Yards, making pictures about the scene. She says she recently discovered lowrider culture.
“I started getting deeper into the car culture in Houston during the pandemic. It wasn't very much for us to be able to do, you know, as a city. I came to realize that like these guys out here, the love and the passion they put into their cars is very similar to the way that I feel about my art,” Melo concluded.
Boyz en El Barrio Park & Cruise, Montie Beach Park, 915 Northwood Street, Saturday, Nov. 13 at 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit Instagram.com/boyzenelbarrio.