In 2002, Montoya was named poet laureate of Sacramento. Montoya’s poems weave together English, Spanish, and slang in resonant performances that speak to and about the communities he spent his live helping to form. Montoya taught art, photography, and education at California State University-Sacramento for nearly thirty years. He died in 2013.
Poet, artist, and activist José Montoya was born in New Mexico and grew up in California’s Central Valley during the Great Depression, the son of farm laborers. Montoya worked in the fields as child and was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He served in the Korean War and attended the California College of Arts and Crafts on the G.I. Bill. He later earned an MFA from California State University-Sacramento and taught high school before becoming involved in social justice movements. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Montoya helped found the Rebel Chicano Art Front, later renamed the Royal Chicano Air Force. The group, a collective of artists turned activists, staged actions and protests to fight for immigrants, farmworkers, laborers, and other marginalized groups, as well as protested the Vietnam War; Montoya is frequently recognized as one of the leading figures in California Latino culture.