Local Hero

With one accord — Xavier Montes of Santa Paula

By Karen Castillo Farfán 11/23/2011

It was Christmas morning when four kids holding guitars stood on Xavier Montes’ doorstep asking for free lessons. The kids discovered Montes’ musical abilities a month before Christmas while he played near the alley behind their apartments. When they asked why he played, he mentioned he was a musician. This triggered the children’s interest and led them to his doorstep.  Montes didn’t want to say yes to their request, but understood these children were from low-income families and had no other positive outlets.

Montes, or Big “X,” known for his tall stature and big heart, is a musician who plays the harp and acoustic guitar. His gentle melodies have entertained at community events all over California for many years.

“I play Mexican folk music,” described Montes. “It is important that we [of Mexican descent] don’t forget our heritage.”

Montes is also a painter whose colorful pieces depict his culture and the life of Mexican immigrants in the U.S.  In 1995 he began the De Colores Art Show. He said Santa Paula was a community with 70 percent Hispanics that needed a creative outlet. Sixteen years later, the De Colores exhibit allows Hispanic artists to feature their work, and currently is running a show through Jan. 29 in the Santa Paula Art Museum. “It is our responsibility to give youths opportunities to express their art. That’s why the De Colores Show began, to provide opportunities.”

Back to the four kids waiting for Montes’ decision  — he knew their parents well and understood they couldn’t afford guitar lessons. “I know how discouraging it can be to have your dreams denied. I once was them. I couldn’t say no; they were hungry.” Today, Montes has created The Alley Band so the kids can play live for events. “I never turn a child away who’s willing to learn.”

Local Hero is an ongoing project, featuring local residents who have made exceptional contributions for their communities. If you know of someone you feel should be featured as a Local Hero, please e-mail at editorial@vcreporter.com or kcfarfan@yahoo.com. For more on the person of the week, go to vcreporter.com

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