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    Xavier Montes (Big X): In Requiem On The Shoulders Of This Giant Chicano Artist Sigimos Adelante!!

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    By Armando Vazquez

    Many folks, I am sure, knew Xavier better than I did, the Maestro got around and everyone that met X loved him! Big X was/is a renowned Master Chicano Artist/Activist legend in Santa Paula and well known, respected, and loved in Oxnard, Ventura and throughout Ventura and Los Angeles County. For over 50 years I have proclaimed, like a madman screaming out in the American art wasteland and to the world, that Chicano art is one of the most magnificent, creative and important art movement of our contemporary art world and society! Xavier Montes’s art is a definitive, important, convincing and unique testimonial to my proclamation. Big X, as much as anyone put Chicano art on the national and international art map as one of the most important art movements of the contemporary art world.

    As much as I loved and respect the Maestro’s art and music, it was the sweet loveable giant of man that I came to love and deeply respect. I loved and remember Big X for his most humble, gigantic, and loving servant’s heart and spirit. Big X was quiet spoken and reserved, almost shy when he was preforming or exhibiting his prodigious artistic talents at the Café on A.  X was always a loving, willing and giving gentlemen who never said no to our at-risk youth and their families Café on A when we asked for his participation or to preform.

    Debbie and I met Xavier way back in around 1998, just after we opened the Acuna Art Gallery at the Café on A in downtown Oxnard. We need to find a musician that would play a couple of hours at our KEYS Leadership Academy graduation. We contacted Xavier and he quickly and graciously accepted the gig that would begin our long and wonderful three decade relationship. That evening X walked in with his wonderful loving smile and humbly picked out a poorly lit corner of the Café on A. X was so unassuming that almost no one noticed him set up. Big X came in that evening dressed in his trademark white pants, shoes, guayabera and his white brim. Without fanfare X began to play his Harp, and within a few magnificent clarion notes he brought the huge Café on A audience of wild, boisterous and kinetic energy of over 100 amped up youth, their families, community leaders and dignitaries to complete and total mesmerizing standstill. That was the power of music, art and love that X brought to our community. Any one that ever heard X play will never forget that special moment in their lives. That was the gift that Xavier gave to our gente and the world.

    After every evening performance, when we closing up, relaxing sharing intimate and heartfelt ruminations, he would smile at me y con un abrazon de meros hermanos Big X would literally pick me up off the ground and affirm to me,

    “Hey vato you and Debbie are doing great work here for the chavalitos y nuestra gente. Nunca te rajes y adelante vato” it was his traditional goodbye that he delivered to me over the three decades that brought us closer and closer together as Chicano artistas, activists y hermanos.


    In his hometown of Santa Paula Big X was for decades a major arts and culture ambassador and activist of the first order, artfully helping to forge and carve out a Chicano art and cultural presence and identity in the very conservative farming community of Santa Paula. X was the founder and driving force of the De Colores Festival that brought Chicano artist, musicians and performers to downtown Santa Paula for a glorious weekend of world class art, cultural education and community bonding. It was Xavier that first invited me to participate in his personally curated De Colores Art Exhibition. X then shared all of his contacts and resources in the Chicano art world that he had with me so that I could invite these wonderful artist to our own Acuna Arts Gallery at the Café on A in Oxnard. That is the kind of homie X was, he always lovingly gave much more than he received. Late in Xavier’s life he took on the noble task of teaching art and music to the kids of Santa Paula and beyond. The youth and the parents loved him and they will miss him. We all that knew him will miss him. As an iconic Chicano artist and musician Xavier was honored by the Latino Art Network as one of the Gran Maestros del Arte of California late in his artistic career.

    My dear camarada Xavier is dead, so is Magu, Carlo Almaraz, Felix Perez, Frank Martinez, Julian Vergara, Lil Mickey, Jose De la Pena, Gavan, Francisco Magdaleno, Markie Lareva, many other of my artist homies and I fear that they will all be forgotten. Their magnificent works, their art and cultural contributions will be render to the dust bind of obscure American art history.  That just the sad state of affairs in America when it comes to “ethnic” artists and their work, buried and forgotten.  So the senior Maestra Chicana artistas, the greatest most creative living force of artists currently creating and producing art in the world today will soon be gone, one by one. What will be their fate?

    Javier and I spoke often about the need to work toward the creation of a Latino Art Museum in Ventura County. We spoke about Oxnard or perhaps Santa Paula as being the best two places for the Latino Museum. Oxnard was further along we reasoned, given that the Carnegie Museum already established was in constant financial troubles, suffered dismal community support and in was in desperate need for new and energetic Latino involvement and support. We could forge a new ethnically conscience and culturally congruent relationship with the Carnegie Museum, this proposal was floated to the leadership of the Carnegie and it never came to fruition.

    The city and folks of Santa Paula had supported X in his various art and cultural ventures. However, Xavier confided in me that it was “wearing me out” to continue with the De Colores Festival and the other cultural events that he worked on over the many decades without little to no help. “Oxnard is the right place Mando”, X encouraged me, “you have a hell of a lot more support in Chiques then I have in Santa Paula. Oxnard is where we should house our Chicano/Latino art treasures and promote our cultural heritage” I tried my brother X, lord knows how I tried to get the city of Oxnard to provide one of their abandoned building to begin the initial stages of establishing the Latino Art Museum in Oxnard. Xavier I failed you and all the other Chicano y Latino Artist that deserve a home that will perpetually display, honor and respect the greatest body of art being produce by an art movement in the world today. But I promise brother I will continue working until my death to try and establish a Chicano/Latino Art Museum in Oxnard, Santa Maria, Indio or anywhere in a city that is smart and progressive enough to appreciate the magnificence and grandeur of greatest art movement in the contemporary world. And you my dear friend, Xavier Montes are one of the giant Maestros of that are movimiento that we call Chicano art. Rest in Peace my brother!

    Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.  is Executive Director of  Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition


    The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

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