Friday, September 27, 2013

Jose Montoya, activist, poet, artist, teacher, ally, friend

Jose Montoya, Sacramento poet, activist and  artist. RIP. –  Ally, Friend, Teacher.

 Jose Montoya, artist and activist, died Wed. Sept. 25, 2013 in Sacramento, California. Jose was a teacher, a poet,  and a community activist important to the Chicano movement as it developed in the 1960s and 70’s.  He was a poet Laureate of Sacramento and a co founder of  the Royal Chicano Air force- an artist collective who helped to define Chicano art and commit their art to political involvements.
The son of farmworker champion Cesar Chavez, Paul F. Chavez, and United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez said in a joint statement, “We will always cherish Jose for how he inspired us as well as so many others through his art. But we will also remember him for the countless times when he walked picket lines, helped organize UFW events and fed the farmworkers during every major strike, boycott and political campaign. He was truly a servant of the farmworker movement and we will always be in his debt.”
Montoya influenced thousands of students and teachers during his 27 years as a professor of art at California State University Sacramento, as well his earlier years as a teacher in Wheatland.  He was a sought after speaker on issues related to using art  in teaching.

“Jose taught us how to be bold, how to be courageous, how to be clear, how to be strong and that example empowered many people, generations of farmworkers who were subjugated and oppressed,” said Juan Carrillo, former director of the California State Arts Council, who helped Montoya co-found the RCAF. “In 1967, there was no Latino caucus in the Legislature, no Latino political presence and Jose Montoya absolutely helped politicize Latinos.”
In 1969, he and other Latino  educators were invited to get their master’s degrees through the Mexican American Education Project at California State University, Sacramento. There, he and several other  Chicanos, many sons of migrant farmworkers, formed the Royal Chicano Air Force, an artists’ collective committed to supporting the UFW while bringing art to the people.
Originally named the Rebel Chicano Art Front, its initials led people to believe they were part of the Royal Canadian Air Force. “I said we’re not Canadians, we’re Chicanos, but we have an air force, we fly adobe airplanes,” Jose Montoya once said. “We wanted to be outrageous, we didn’t want to be boring so we now had an air force we could incorporate into the movement, which was about boycotting Safeway” to keep the chain from selling table grapes until farmworkers’ conditions improved. “We would show up to Safeway dressed in Air Force uniforms and driving a World War II jeep,” which got the media’s attention, Montoya said. 
Jose Montoya became an organizer for the UFW throughout the Central Valley and spent every single Friday and Saturday on the picket line. “He held farmworkers deep in his heart and agonized over the excruciating work they did,”  said his daughter Gina Montoya in an article in the Sacramento Bee.

José Montoya was a founding member of Trio Casindio and the author of El Sol y Los de Abajo and other RCAF poems.  In 1992 he published a collection of his poems and drawings   In Formation: 20 Years of Joda.   He was a prolific painter and creator of Chicano poster art. 
Montoya is  survived by Mary Ellen Montoya, his first wife; his second wife, Juanita Jue ; 19 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.
Read the Bee story  along with an excellent slide show here.

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