The Visionary Award – Pioneering contributor and/or significantly instrumental in forwarding the automotive sport and culture of Lowriding worldwide.
This year, we have a special award that is going to be given to a very special person that influenced the Lowriding culture. The Lowrider Hall of Fame Executive Committee is honoring Al Lopez, who will be the recipient of the Visionary Award.
Now in its sixth year, The Official Lowrider Hall of Fame has attempted to formally recognize those who have made a distinguished measurable difference in the Lowrider Motorsport and Culture. In realizing the set standards and qualifications one must meet, it leaves little room for the few who made historic visionary contributions in forecasting where we are going, both as a phenomenon and as a movement. Al Lopez was the tip of the spear that cemented Lowrider Magazine as the document of record for Lowriding throughout the nation.
Though he resurrected the Lowrider (logo) Brand from the ashes, his determination and vision made it stronger, larger, and overall more prolific, as it became a publication with a purpose. He wanted it to serve the Chicano and Lowrider Community as a full service provider. Lowrider News, Car Club updates, Car Shows, new product lines, and overall advertising dedicated to our own lifestyle; when no one else could or would help. Before the Lowrider Industry became a multi-Million Dollar Industry, Al Lopez opened the door, showing the world we are here.
In 1978, the magazine was gaining popularity throughout the Southwest, and Sonny Madrid started seeking out local representation in far-flung Lowriding hot spots. “I met Sonny at the Chicano Film Festival in San Antonio, Texas,” remembers [LRM publisher 1988-2000] Alberto Lopez. “He was handing out copies of the magazine. I had done a short film on Lowriders in college, so we hit it off right away.” After two hazy weeks of partying, Sonny offered Alberto a job.
Alberto was managing the group Little Joe y La Familia, and had taken time out to lend his talents to the Chicano activist political party, La Raza Unida, in Crystal City, Texas. Although Alberto was hired as an account executive, he and his partner (and later, wife) Dina Loya were soon writers, photographers, and delivery people, just like the rest of the hired staff. “El Beto de Tejas,” soon teamed up with staff photographer Johnny Lozoya to put on Lowrider Magazine’s first big show outside California.
Jimmy Borunda, a hardcore Lowrider and University of Arizona student, had approached Sonny months before, asking about an Arizona lowrider show. Jimmy agreed to help the magazine locate an appropriate venue, which was surprisingly difficult. The Phoenix Civic Plaza refused to host what they called a “gang-culture event,” and other area facilities soon followed suit. It seemed like Lowrider’s dreams of cruising across Aztlán would be headed off by Phoenix authorities.
Finally, the Gila River Indian Reservation came through! Located just ten miles south of the city, they were willing to work with Jimmy and the magazine. The tribe’s council even agreed to build a grandstand, a special car hopping platform, and make arrangements for entertainment. “The best part was that the reservation was off limits to Phoenix and Arizona authorities,” laughs Sonny. “It was its own nation!” The Phoenix police announced that gangs from California were converging on the reservation for a convention; only to watch, annoyed, as the peaceful event went off without a hitch.
San Antonio, Sacramento and other Southwestern cities were soon hosting their own regular Lowrider Magazine “Supershows,” attracting more and more cars from the scene. These events showcased the nation’s best Lowriders in an entirely new forum, and then gave them national exposure on the pages of the magazine. There was one city that had yet to host such an event: Los Angeles, where the Lowrider Movement was born. Here is Albert’s take on what his life’s work means to him:
It was hard to build the magazine, but I had a great anchor in Dina Loya. I remember going to the South Gate show and there were a few Lowriders, but the majority of that show featured Hot Rods at the time. We would go to all the Chicano and Gringo shows from San Jose to Indio in Southern California. Then one year, we wanted to make an impact, so we did SEMA, I remember we had a 10×20 – just enough space to fit in a car and a table and banners. By 1995, we had our own semi on the SEMA floor and people had taken notice of us. The people couldn’t believe the Chicanos were strong.
By then, we were accepted by mainstream America – it was like when you listen to rap, you know it was a black culture we accepted and took it for what it is. Lowriding was a Chicano trend or lifestyle that was accepted by different cultures, but we never changed it. We had the Raza Report, I never took out what made us. I never took out Chicano Primero; our mentality was ‘take it or leave it.’ That’s why all the Chicanos and Hispanic community wanted to be part of it, since it was something that gave us pride.
I’m sure it has lost a little flavor since it went corporate, but not much. I think for this magazine to survive it needed to go corporate. If I still had it, it might not be around because of today’s distribution and the internet. Realistically, the distribution companies would have killed the book. For me, it was time to step back, I was able to go nationally even international, producing a quality magazine that we would put out monthly with pride.
I’m really proud of what I did for Lowriding. I was able to establish a positive image for the culture. We took it out of the barrios where our roots began, and we were lucky enough to go international. It was taken to a new level from where Sonny had it because I was fortunate enough to learn from his mistakes. You know, I could honestly say I had a great run in my era.
This mentality of creating a quality magazine that stood out from the rest earned Alberto Lopez this visionary award.