Acceptance Speech for the
2004 Latino Town Hall Cultural Arts Award

by Xavier Montes
Xavier Montes (Photo by Dina Pielaet of 'Ventura Life & Style')
Many years ago when I first started thinking about the kind of cultural events - art, music and dance - that we could have in Santa Paula, I envisioned an event where the community would experience the beauty and variety of Latino art, music and dance. Much of this is Mexican art and music - I am of Mexican descent. Mexican history plays a significant role in American history. Mexican culture is part of me and I have learned that Mexican culture is wide and varied - so beautiful. It is much more than just Mariachi - I envisioned an event where the community could see this variety in a professional setting so that they could feel the same enjoyment I feel when I see and hear music from Veracruz, music from Southern Mexico like the marimba, from northern Mexican like the Norteņo which has the accordion and is the musical ancestor to American country music. Within all this musical variety we also have boleros, which are Mexican romantic ballads, and rancheras and corridos, which express a wide range of emotions from tragedy to joy.

I envisioned a presentation where our children and young people would be inspired to pick up the guitar, the violin, or the harp and practice, improvise and jam with their friends. Or be inspired to learn the various danzas or maybe even pick up a paintbrush and capture on canvas the images ingrained in their minds, hearts and souls. So my vision was two-fold, to share this beautiful culture with those in our community who had not been exposed to it and to pass this culture on to our children. I was and still am afraid that our culture - art, music and dance - may die if we do not pass it on.

I envisioned a place where artists and community members could come together and talk about art and the subject matter within the art. The uniqueness of the De Colores Art Show is that the art depicts a wide variety of subjects, ranging from historical events, to human rights, to cultural images and contemporary issues.

I envisioned an event where the love of my culture in art, music and dance could unite our community and create a place where others in Ventura County, in Santa Barbara County, in Southern California, and even throughout the state of California would come to Santa Paula to experience and enjoy the beauty of our culture. Just as they used to in the 40s and 50s when Santa Paula was known to be the place to go when you were looking for musicos, trios, duets and even larger bands. For example, musicos like Joe "Jotin" Ramirez, Nava Brothers, Ruben Sanchez and his family, the Arellano Brothers, and Mon Hernandez and his groups and the list goes on. At one time Santa Paula had three harp players and their groups: The Moraza family, John Robles and his group, and me and my various groups.

I envisioned a return to this vibrant, musical past of Santa Paula and what it could mean to our community - both for the city's economy and for education. I envisioned art galleries, restaurants filled with music, tourists coming to my Santa Paula as a tourist destination to experience our shared culture and to experience this beautiful city and its surroundings. But for this vision to become a reality I felt that I needed to take action - not just attend meeting after meeting.

Cultural arts moves my inner spirit, it instills an energy in me that words cannot express. It is this love and this excitement that moves me to want so desperately to share with all of you so that you too can feel what I feel.

So the work began, De Colores Art Show was born and it took literally BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS. During the formative years of De Colores Art Show, my aunt who raised me, my Mom's sister, was dying. Were it not for friends and family to help me I could not have started De Colores Art Show. In those early years, many of you stepped forward to help, you helped with enchilada fundraisers, you brought punch and cookies (without being asked to), you just came to the art show and that alone inspired me to keep going even though the work almost killed me. But YOU helped me through.

The tide changed when Mike Nelson asked me to move the art show to the Oil Museum. Another pivotal point was when Laura Espinosa "gently encouraged" the city to include De Colores Art Show as one of the city's major events. Had it not been for Mike and Laura, I might still be at the Depot! THANK YOU LAURA SO MUCH! Santa Paula Times - Don and Debbie Johnson and Peggy Kelly all supported the art show and gave it great and consistent coverage in the early years and still do today. Kay Wilson-Bolton was the first to give me unsolicited sponsorships - funds that I desperately needed for the art show. They truth of it is that without Mike, Laura, the Santa Paula Times, Kay and others who would give me $25 here and $10 there, I might have given up and we would not have had this year's 10th Anniversary of the De Colores Art Show.

The art show has helped fulfill a part of my vision. I now receive calls from LA, TV stations, radio stations, artists from New York, Florida wanting to know about Santa Paula and the art show. The art show even got a story in a national magazine, Ventura Life & Style. The art show and the fandango have attendance from throughout California and from other states. Our website gets hits from all over the country and all over the world, Italy, France, Brazil, Japan, Spain, Mexico and others. Which brings me to another pivotal point in the history of De Colores: My webmaster, my marketing specialist, my fundraising campaigner, program editor and designer, graphic artist, Carmen Guerrero brought De Colores to a different level.

Often I am asked just who is the GROUP in De Colores Art Group? Well, before Carmen it was just me. BUT now we've grown 100% -- there are two of us! Seriously, I envisioned a group of people working together to bring a variety of cultural events to Santa Paula - so again, we have grown another 100%, we now have two events, the De Colores Art Show and the fandango!

So my vision is slowly becoming a reality. BUT we still need more. We need a real GROUP, people to help with the events. We still need a cultural center filled with art, music and dance. Educationally, a cultural center can be used to inspire young people. Art can act as a spring board to other disciplines, for example when drawing landscapes some topics discussed are trees, shrubbery, the geography of the area; when drawing people, we talk about the anatomy, psychology (who the person is) if he is a hero, what drove him to heroic acts, the same can be applied to music and dance. If you haven't already done so, check out the Educational Materials section of our website where we have lesson plans across the curriculum using art, music and dance as teaching tools.

We need a performance venue in Santa Paula. Santa Barbara has its BOWL; Ojai has its BOWL - Santa Paula needs a BOWL too!

I must mention Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. The De Colores Art Show is dedicated to both of them. My father picked lemons, my mother and her family migrated all over California following the season crops, my Aunt Carmen pitted apricots throughout Ventura County and they all experienced first hand the many issues related to human rights that Cesar and Dolores worked so hard to bring to light. I felt compelled to honor them in the most significant way. I feel that their struggle is continued to be depicted and voiced in various art forms that are exhibited year after year in the De Colores Art Show. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to them for their personal sacrifices that benefited not only my family but many others also.

I am touched and grateful to Santa Paula Latino Town Hall for this recognition and for their continued financial support of both the De Colores Art Show and the fandango.

I would also like to thank:

And last of all, I thank the community of Santa Paula for your attendance and support. The De Colores Art Show and the fandango are for you -- They are my gift to my beloved Santa Paula. Thank you!

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