Friday, September 27, 2013

José Montoya, Mexican-American Artist and Co-Founder of the Royal Chicano Air Force, Dies at 81

By Claudio Iván Remeseira | Posted Friday, September 27, 2013, at 9:56 a.m. ET. Last modified Fri., Sep. 27, 2013, at 10:45 a.m. ET

José Montoya, one of the most prominent figures of the Chicano movement during the 1960s and ’70s and Poet Laureate of Sacramento from 2002 to 2004, died Wednesday at his home in Sacramento, Ca. 
Born on May 28, 1932, in Escobosa, New Mexico, into a family of migrant farm workers, he soon moved with them to California's Central Valley. As a boy, Montoya used to pick grapes in Delano and Fowler, in the San Joaquín Valley, the same areas that a few years later would be galvanized by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta through the creation of the United Farm Workers of America

Montoya moved on and away from the fields and became an artist. He also remained a committed activist for Chicano civil rigths throughout his life. In 1969, along with Esteban Villa, a colleague art teacher at Sacramento State University, and other Mexican-American artists and poets, Montoya founded the Royal Chicano Air Force (a play of words on "Royal Canadian Air Force," first known as the Rebel Chicano Art Front), an art collective aimed at mustering support for the United Farm Workers in the Sacramento-Davis area.
"It was a time when the American Air Force was dropping real bombs and using real napalm in its war with Vietnam," says Chris Cobb in his obituary for the Open Space blog. The Royal Chicano Air Force's work eloquently reflected the spirit of revolt, group-identity, and social justice thirst of those years (WATCH VIDEO BELOW) 

"El Louie," about a  pachuco who returns from the Korean War to see his life unravel under the weight of racism in a white-dominanted society, is probably Montoya's most well-known and anthologized poem.

Montoya would keep teaching art, photography, and education at the university and local high schools and community colleges for 27 years. "He was a mentor to a lot of younger artists and poets and up until not so long ago he could be found reading his poems at Luna’s Cafe & Juice Bar in Sacramento," says Cobb.

Read more here:
Read more at The Sacramento Bee. Read also: Rest in Peace José Montoya, Muralist of Chicano Park - By Dee Dee Garcia Blase (Tucson Citizen)


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