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José Montoya: 1932—: Artist, Educator, Writer

Fascinated By Art And Storytelling

Montoya was born on May 28, 1932, on a ranch near Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his Mexican great-grandparents had settled after receiving a federal land grant in the 1800s. He was one of nine children, seven of whom survived, born to Malaquías Montoya and Lucia Saiz Montoya. When the boy was still an infant, his father was sent to prison for making liquor during Prohibition. Montoya grew up with his great-grandmother and great aunts while his mother supported the family by painting decorative motifs on home interiors. As he commented to Dictionary of Hispanic Biography contributor Ann Malaspina, "I have vivid memories about hardships, but I was also endowed with a lot of affection and love."

Art and storytelling were important parts of Montoya's early childhood. He enjoyed watching his mother mix the colors she used in her work. "We used to go on excursions to look for materials and colors," he told Malaspina, "tap-ping various levels of arroyo creeks for the yellow ocher colors." He also recalled his fascination with the storytelling traditions of his village.

In 1938, when Malaquías Montoya was released from prison, the family moved to Albuquerque, where Montoya started school. But Montoya hated the city, and his family sent him back to live with his grandparents in the mountains. In 1941 Malaquías Montoya accepted a job as a farm laborer in California, and the family undertook a long journey by car and train to join him there. Turned away from Bakersfield, they moved to the Sierra Vista Ranches near Delano. The young Montoya, only nine years old, toiled in the fields while his parents cooked for the farmhands. For the next few years, Montoya attended school now and then while he earned wages and helped to care for his younger siblings. He skipped a whole year of school when he was 13. Along with a few other families, the Montoyas moved frequently to follow seasonal jobs. During World War II the family settled near Oakland, where Malaquías found work in the shipyards. In 1950, however, Montoya's parents separated and his father returned to New Mexico.

At a Glance . . .

Born on May 28, 1932, near Albuquerque, NM; married Mary Prieto (divorced); married Juanita Jue; children: six from first marriage, three from second marriage. Education: San Diego City College, AA, 1956; California College of Arts and Crafts, BA; Sacramento State University, MFA, 1971. Military Service: US Navy, 1951-55.

Career: Artist, 1960s–; Wheatland High School, Wheatland, CA, teacher, 1963-69; Sacramento State University, teacher in department of art education, 1971-81, professor, 1981-96; author, 1972–; National Taskforce on Hispanic Art, 1977; poet laureate of Sacramento, CA, 2002–.

Memberships: Mexican American Liberation Art Front, founder, 1960s–; Rebel Chicano Art Movement (later the Royal Chicano Air Force), founder, 1970s–.

Awards: City of Sacramento Mayor's Award for poetry, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Council, 1995; California Arts Council award, 1997; National Endowment for the Arts, Grand Award for Literature, Arts Writing Fellowship Grant, 1981.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Barbara Barbieri McGrath (1953–) Biography - Personal to Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930) BiographyJosé Montoya: 1932—: Artist, Educator, Writer Biography - Fascinated By Art And Storytelling, Discovered A Facility With Words, Founded Rcaf, Poems Published In Anthology