Seeing things as fixable, not broken —
Roger Montoya will bring an artist’s eye to the legislature
by Michael Sperberg-McQueen
Roger Montoya, the Democratic candidate for the New Mexico House of Representatives from district 40, sees his district with an artist’s eye. This is true both literally — since he retired from professional dance and came back to New Mexico in 1990, Montoya has worked as a landscape painter from his home in Velarde — and figuratively. When he sees a problem, Montoya says, he looks for a way to work with what is present and to pull the pieces together as an artist would, to make a new and beautiful whole.
“There is a grand opportunity right now for education,” he continues, warming to his theme. Because of Covid-19, classrooms of the kind students have known for decades must be re-thought, and there is a movement towards teaching outdoors. The outdoor classroom, says Montoya, is an invitation to involve students in observing and interacting with nature directly, instead of reading about it in books — “we have an opportunity,” he says, “to make the world our classroom.”
Montoya’s family has deep roots in northern New Mexico. After studying in California (he was recruited as a gymnast to Long Beach City College and later studied at Cal State Long Beach) and a career with dance companies based in Los Angeles and New York, performing around the globe, Montoya returned to New Mexico in 1990 and has made his home in Velarde ever since. While working as a landscape painter, he has been active as a community organizer: he has founded or co-founded HELPS (an organization to help HIV-positive rural New Mexicans find treatment), the La Tierra Montessori school in Ohkay Owingeh, Moving Arts Española (which provides in-school and after-school arts programming and tutoring), and the Española Pathways Shelter, a comprehensive service organization for homeless individuals that was the first of its kind in Rio Arriba County. He also worked with a campaign to fight gravel mining in Velarde, which led to the first gravel ordinances in the history of the county.
The candidate says his legislative priorities would include better and more equitable access to healthcare, education reform, and economic opportunity. All of these will require better infrastructure in the rural north. So domestic water issues, road infrastructure, and broadband access are all on Montoya’s mind as he works to prepare for the election and the 2021 legislative session, should he have the honor of being elected.
Montoya has been endorsed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Senator Martin Heinrich, Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM), American Federation of Teachers, Planned Parenthood Votes New Mexico, OLE, Working Families Party of New Mexico, the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, The Victory Fund, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 18.
In Roger Montoya — a man with a thirty-year track record of applying the creativity of a working artist to solving problems and maximizing resources — we have a candidate who will work to improve things for the most vulnerable among us. He has already visited every community in the district to ensure he Understands the diverse needs of New Mexico House District 40.
House District 40 includes Velarde, Apodaca in the Dixon Area, Alcalde, Chamita, Ohkay Owingeh, El Llano, Chimayo, Cordova, Truchas, Ojo Sarco, all in Rio Arriba County, all of Mora County, and the Village of Pecos in San Miguel County and Springer, Cimarron, and Eagle Nest in Colfax County.