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The Drug Enforcement Administration Helps Kickstart the Second At-Risk Teenager Lowrider Bike Club in New Mexico

Española Lowrider Bike Club Showcases Teenagers’ Customized Bikes at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art
February 14, 2024

Española Lowrider Bike Club student Amor Altamirano gets help from local artist and Bike Club mentor Cruz López  Española Lowrider Bike Club student adds fine details to her Lowrider creation

ALBUQUERQUE – On February 16, the Española Lowrider Bike Club will be showcasing a dozen teenagers’ customized bikes at their exhibition opening reception at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe. Teenagers involved in the Española Lowrider Bike Club have been building and customizing their bikes at the Española YMCA Teen Center, where they were given a basic frame and given the opportunity to work with a variety of skilled teachers and mentors from the Española lowrider community on assembling, fabricating, grinding, sanding, and sculpting their bikes.

Española is the second community in New Mexico that has received funding from the Drug Enforcement El Paso Division through the agency’s Operation Engage initiative, with Albuquerque being the first. Operation Engage is a comprehensive community-level approach to bridging the gap between public health and public safety to address the drug epidemic through prevention strategies like lowrider bike clubs. “The DEA is proud to have been a financial partner in this lowrider bike club, as part of Operation Engage,” said Towanda R. Thorne-James, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s El Paso Division, which covers the state of New Mexico. “DEA provided the seed money to get it started, but we need the community to water that seed and make it into a sustainable program.”

Seed funding available through DEA’s Operation Engage initiative has proven to be effective in growing these lowrider bike clubs, as seen through the amount of community interest in mentorship that each club cultivates. “We are greatly appreciative of DEA’s support in helping us kick-start our Duke City Leadership Lowrider Bike Club supporting at-risk teens in Albuquerque last year, and we are excited to now have many of our lowrider mentors and police officer mentors wanting to come back for our second year of the program,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Peña. “We are excited to see that Española is creating these same opportunities for their youth and that their community is engaged in the club.”

Over the past four years, Councilor Peña’s office has been convening a national network of communities that are all working to celebrate lowrider culture through a combination of lowrider-based youth programming and legislative action. One of those communities, Olathe, KS, pioneered the mentorship-based lowrider bike club model and has supported Albuquerque and Española in launching their own lowrider bike club chapters over the past few years. “As the founder of the Leadership Lowrider Bike Club, I am so proud to see all of the chapters doing so great,” Erik Erazo, Executive Director of Student & Community Engagement at Olathe Public Schools. “I love seeing our Bike Club family grow.”

Teens have been participating in the Española Lowrider Bike Club since last Spring and the exhibition at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art will be their first opportunity to showcase all of their hard work. The development of the bike club has been a community-driven project with involvement from the Española non-profit organization Hands Across Cultures, the Española Lowrider Museum Coalition, Connecting Our Voices, and the Española YMCA Teen Center.

“The Española Lowrider Bike Club was truly a collaborative effort among leaders in our lowrider community, caring adults from all participating organizations, and the teens from the Española YMCA,” said Diego Lopez, Executive Director of Hands Across Cultures. “We wish to thank the DEA Operation Engage program and the other lowrider bike club chapters for their ongoing support and vision. We were able to form positive relationships and build resiliency through this project. La Cultura Cura."

The bike club’s opening reception at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (750 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe) on February 16 will have a preview for members of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society from 4:30-5 p.m. and will later be open to the public from 5-6:30 p.m.