Xavier Montes addresses the crowd at the annual Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce dinner last Saturday evening. Montes was selected the Citizen of the Year. Photo by Don Johnson

Xavier Montes Santa Paula Citizen of the Year

January 26, 2005
Big heart, big talent, Big X
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesXavier Montes is known as Big X not only for his size. The nickname of the musician, teacher, artist and founder of De Colores Art Show and Fandango also reflects his talents and heart, attributes leading to Montes being celebrated as the Chamber of Commerce’s 2004 Citizen of the Year.The celebration was held Saturday at the Community Center, where Montes was surrounded by family, friends and supporters of his efforts to bring traditional culture to the community to better the community. A bonus of Montes’ efforts is that the annual De Colores and Fandango have also brought thousands of tourists to the city for the festive events.Master of Ceremonies Alan Teague introduced Connie Tushla and Santa Paula Oil Museum Executive Director Mike Nelson, who spoke of Montes’ dedication to and love of the Santa Paula community. “It’s an honor for me to affirm this honor,” noted Nelson, who first met Montes in 1996 when the Depot was home to De Colores, then a one-day art show.Nelson asked Montes to move the show to the museum in 1998, and it since has expanded to a “major cultural attraction in Southern California, and Xavier is a widely respected voice for Latino artists. The exhibits established important connections,” including highlighting the diversity of Santa Paula. “The credit goes to Xavier, who has enriched our lives and is a model of integrity for the quality of the arts.”So deep is the fame of the De Colores and Fandango events that Camarillo has approached Montes about staging a similar event in their city, noted Tushla. Montes is even featured in a current Santa Barbara arts magazine, where he was interviewed about his art and the creation of the mural on Chino’s Market, a project highlighting the benefits of education in which Montes involved at-risk youth.If someone were to ask Tushla to describe Montes, words such as “complex, talented and sincere” would top the list. “My husband says Xavier is interested and interesting,” noted Tushla. “When he identifies a need he goes the distance” to fill it.Montes connects with at-risk youth through his art and music, able to “contact them on all levels. He really tries to bring out the good in people.”Montes experienced a “light bulb moment…the time when the light goes on,” bringing people closer to the truth and prompting a profound change in one’s life. “A few years ago Santa Paula was stuck in negativity, was not able to move ahead, there were tensions in the city. He went into action to build bridges…people really liked him, his quiet and focused attitude helped create light bulb moments. Xavier made a powerful impact and put his concern for Santa Paula into action.”
Montes’ partner Carmen Guerrero helped propel him and took over marketing for the cultural events, including creation of a Web site that highlights the entire city. “She helped Big X to be a better, more focused man…a big man with a big heart,” said Tushla.“I saw the list of the previous Citizens of the Year and it humbled me,” said Montes after a standing ovation. “It’s kind of tough to survive as an artist and musician,” and although De Colores “started out slow,” with support of other artists he met at Café A, “things began to happen.”Montes noted that Saturday was the birthday of his late father, Vincent, founder of the family-owned Vince’s Coffee Shop, and recalled his own childhood days of traveling to Mexico for family visits. “I couldn’t wait to get home to Santa Paula, I would love to be home even at a very early age…it would feel so good.”Santa Paula is special and the “people of Santa Paula are special…” and showed great support for De Colores. The power of music is more immediate and dramatic than that of art, he noted. “Music demands your attention immediately, alters emotions and changes moods in a matter of seconds.”De Colores now has a heavy emphasis on music and dance – the staple of Fandango – and now students are studying the events papers on culture. Even Los Angeles’ famed Olvera Street has contacted Montes about staging a Fandango, as “they all know Santa Paula and that these events are happening,” putting the city on the map for cultural pursuits. “De Colores and Fandango are not mine…they belong to all of you,” Montes concluded.City Councilman Gabino Aguirre, Supervisor Kathy Long, Assemblymember Audra Strickland and Senator George Runner’s aide Linda Johnson presented Montes with proclamations. “You are certainly the total package who inspires hearts and spirits,” said Long.Montes is a “true Santa Paula homeboy…cultural arts are certainly a way to stop and smell the roses,” noted Aguirre. “Here in Santa Paula we all sit at that table you embody. You are the X Man.”

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