Flipping the switch: KSAT takes cruise with San Antonio lowriders for Hispanic Heritage Month exhibit

New exhibit on display at San Antonio International Airport

SAN ANTONIO – A new exhibit at the San Antonio International Airport celebrates our city’s car culture, specifically lowriders and the artistry behind these vehicles.

Each lowrider tells its story, from custom paint jobs to bouncing hydraulics.

“A lot goes into lowriders. It’s an extension of the person,” said Clint Westwood, San Antonio lowrider liaison and exhibit curator. “Most of these cars are dedicated to somebody from their family, from their past.”

A KSAT crew rode with some of these car owners from Callaghan to Culebra roads to the airport.

“It’s beauty, it’s mesmerizing. It’s watching the kids seeing the lowrider for the first time going, ‘Wow,’” said Westwood.

As they cruise down San Antonio streets, all eyes are on these custom works of art.

“These cars are meant to be seen. They’re not meant to be kept in the garage,” said Joe De La Rosa with Lone Star Lowriders.

De La Rosa owns a custom 1959 Chevy Impala. He said there’s not much that compares to driving his lowrider.

“If it’s once a month, maybe twice a month, it’s like a place that you’ve been waiting to be,” said De La Rosa. “It’s a feeling of being relaxed and just pure enjoyment.”

Lowriding is a way of life for these car owners. Stacy Stewart was born into the San Antonio car culture.

He said his dad, Victor Stewart, and two friends co-founded one of the iconic lowrider clubs in San Antonio called 1st Impressions.

“He would take his car to the next level of building it. When you have a lowrider, you get to create your own dream of a car, your own color, own interior, all the specialties,” said Stacy Stewart.

He installed thousands of dollars worth of hydraulics in this car, and it definitely makes an impression as it bounces down the streets.

“Cruising downtown, you get tourists that like what they see. I put it on, hit the hydraulics, hop it. It’s just something different,” said Stewart.

Lowriders can be traced back to the 1940s and 1950s. They became popular as many Mexican-Americans or Chicanos on the West Coast, the Southwest and Texas wanted to express more of their culture. Many of these early car owners were World War II veterans. The traditions of building and customizing lowriders have been passed down.

“It’s a time timeless effort, but it’s definitely worth it,” said Westwood. “The pride that goes into it is something that’s unmatched.”

These cars are now on display for the first time at the airport for Hispanic Heritage Month. They are generations of stories, history and incredible art on four wheels.

“The kids in the community really drives the passion, and my hope is that I can inspire others to be able to join what I would call the culture, or the love, of lowriding,” said De La Rosa.

“We’re finally getting a platform to where we can highlight the beauty of our culture,” said Westwood.

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.