An Aug. 7 event at the future site of the Española Lowrider Museum showcased potential exhibit layouts and featured speeches from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and a slew of community leaders from Rio Arriba County.
The New Mexico Tourism Department, which provided Rio Arriba County with a $50,000 grant for the Museum through the Rural Pathways Project, debuted a video from its New Mexico True project highlighting and advertising lowrider culture in Northern New Mexico.
Museum Board President Fred Rael said he expects the Museum will be completed in spring 2020.
Lujan Grisham told the packed crowd the Museum will create jobs and opportunity for the region.
“I think the state tries too hard to move away from the things that you’re proud of, the things that work well for you in this community,” she said. “This really is about your leadership and having your elected leaders finally do the work that you’ve been asking of all of us for a very long time. And you should be incredibly proud.”
Española Mayor Javier Sanchez, who dashed from working the catering table to the podium to introduce speakers, said the Museum is about belonging and warned the crowd against being too closed off to outsiders after decades of being looked down on.
“You’ve been told you don’t count, but guess what, you count and best of all you’re making yourselves count on your own; that’s what this means,” he said. “When we open our hearts to the communities around us because they’re a little interested in us, we have to be ready to accept them.”
Dozens of lowriders and motorcycles filled the Center’s sizeable parking lot. Rael estimated there were about 60 lowriders and 200 people.
“That’s my extended family, I call them my lowrider family,” he said. “To have them there as part of this event was amazing. It’s one of those days that you don’t want it to end.”
Tourism Department Cabinet Secretary Jen Schroer said the Museum will serve both as a magnet for tourism and as an economic development anchor for other organizations in the Arriba Empowerment Center.
Department Public Information Officer Cody Johnson said the Department’s role in the Museum, having helped the Board establish a 501(c)3 nonprofit and undergo early training and planning, will diminish going forward.
“It’s in their hands now to fulfill the museum,” he said. “Our role is to kickstart the projects and get them going.”
Though several cars, a number of photo prints, a projector slideshow, and clothing displays were stuffed into the building in the Arriba Empowerment Center complex, formerly the Cariños Community Hub, organizers said the space was empty the day before.
Board Secretary Delubina Montoya said Rio Arriba County workers finished installing the garage door the afternoon before the event and they brought in cars about six hours before the hard hat event began.
The County’s match to the State’s grant will be given in the form of labor and renovations to the building.
The Department’s grant will go toward permanent exhibits, and while the finalized museum will contain cars, Rael said they don’t know exactly which will go in.
“At some point I’d like to get some of those cars back in on display for the museum,” he said, “They each have a long history in different ways in the Valley.”
He said the event was meant to display the potential of the Museum.
“It would be a groundbreaking without the shovels, basically,” he said.