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A pink, sparkly lowrider went viral online. Now it’s in an Austin museum.

A closeup of a pink, sparkly car with its hood up, showing the mechanics inside.
Bullock Texas State History Muse
Dallas Lowriders member Mercedes Mata will have her 1984 Chevy Monte Carlo La Mera Mera showcased at the "Carros y Cultura" exhibition at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

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Every Sunday evening, 20-year-old Mercedes Mata would cruise her sparkly pink 1984 Chevy Monte Carlo down Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff and through downtown Dallas. Her customized lowrider, which she named La Mera Mera, caught the attention of many on the streets of her hometown and even celebrities online. But in November, her car did its last low-and-slow drive down the Dallas pavement.

At least for another four months, Mata said, because La Mera Mera is being showcased in a Texas museum exhibition this summer.

“It feels unreal,” Mata said. “I never thought it would get this far.”

The car is shown from the side with both the front and back hoods up.
Bullock Texas State History Muse
La Mera Mera will be showcased at the museum until September.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin has put together its first exhibition dedicated to the legacy of Texas lowriders. The exhibition “Carros y Cultura” celebrates lowriders: the Mexican American community’s bouncing old-school cars and the people who ride them. Among the seven Texas lowriders being showcased, Mata is the only woman, the only one from Dallas and the youngest lowrider in the exhibition.

Senior curator Kathryn Siefker said the exhibition shows the relationship between the car and the person behind the wheel, and the relationships those people have with each other and their community.

“We’re really trying to highlight the lowrider as a person, as a strong family figure, as a community leader, as an activist,” Siefker said. “The person is the heart of lowriding.”

The pink front hood of the car is in the foreground, while a different car is in the background of the museum exhibit.
Bullock Texas State History Muse
New upgrades to La Mera Mera includes a mural of Dallas Lowrider Mercedes Mata surrounded by Dallas sights.

For Mata, spending money and time to build and customize her lowrider isn’t a hobby. This was a lifestyle she was born into.

Mata is a member of the Dallas Lowriders, a club founded by her late uncle Ivy in 1979. In 1985, after her uncle’s death, the club disbanded and was inactive until 2003, the year Mata was born. Her father, Mark, became the spokesperson for the Dallas Lowriders, but a year later he was incarcerated. He remained behind bars until Mata and her sister, Mariah, were preteens.

“Lowriding helped us connect with him,” Mata said. “It’s a deeper story than just a car.”

In the 1940s, lowriding turned into an artistic outlet for self expression and identity within the Mexican American community. It was popular in California and then spread to parts of Texas. Lowrider culture is fueled by community and family support, and Mata’s La Mera Mera is a product of that.

The inside of the pink car shows a steering wheel made out of chainlink that's been shaped into a heart, plus two fuzzy pink dice and a cross necklace hanging from the mirror.
Bullock Texas State History Muse
A look inside La Mera Mera.

“The cars are like an expression of ourselves,” Mata said. “It’s about family and bringing people together — unity.”

Mata spent five months taking the La Mera Mera apart and upgrading it for the exhibition. She redid the hydraulic setup, redipped the chrome suspensions, replaced the motor, updated the pink trunk and more. The glittery rose-gold lowrider still has the Dallas Lowriders silver plaque showing in the rear window, but another addition shows the real mera mera. 

A candy-pink mural of Mata was painted on the hood of the car. Mata, wearing the popular upside-down Dallas cap, is surrounded by Dallas sights. Some of the images include the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, the Jefferson Boulevard street sign, the Dallas neon Pegasus icon and the downtown skyline.

“Everybody that knows me knows I have a big personality,” Mata said. “I was like, ‘Let’s go all out.’”

Along with La Mera Mera, Mata will also showcase personal items in a glass case that includes an original gold Dallas Lowrider plaque, her Dallas Lowrider of the Year award from 2023 and her first steering wheel that was once on her dad’s lowrider from 2003.

The rest of the Bullock Museum exhibition will include lowrider bikes, fashion, music, photography and videos. An interactive touchscreen mural will allow visitors to explore the characteristics that make a custom car a lowrider car: hydraulics, upholstery and paint.

“It’s pretty cool that the culture itself is getting exposure,” Mata said. “It’s getting what it deserves.”

The exhibition opened Saturday and will continue through Sept. 2. 

Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, The University of Texas at Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Stephanie Salas-Vega
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