By Lifting Just One Child, We All Rise

a1_DSC_6288 (1).jpgRoger Montoya/Courtesy Photo

Artistic Director and Co-Founder, Moving Arts Espanola
2019 CNN Hero

I am honored and humbled by my selection as a 2019 CNN Hero, particularly in that it highlights Moving Arts Española and the complexity of my beautiful community. 

However, this recognition is not about me, but those that have preceded me and that will follow, and especially those that rise up every day and take action with courageous dedication, against great obstacles, to improve the world. I am surrounded by heroes, and if I shine it is only because of the brilliance of the ‘we’ that reflects upon ‘me.’ 

I think of all of my ancestors that came before me, of people like my grandmother, Demetria Roybal, who nourished her Native-Hispano village of Peñasco against the backdrop of the great depression and ongoing economic distress. I think of all those men and women whose everyday work, though invisible, nurtured their environment, cultivated the land, and raised children with the core values of their ancestors. 

I think of my family, individuals like my mother, Dorotea (“Dottie”) Montoya, who nurtured four generations of young people at the Española Valley High School, becoming the mother of “School Based Wellness” in New Mexico. 

I am grateful for all of the people of the Española Valley. When I see 600 of them turn out for a student performance I know that the entire community is united in our love for our children. They are Native, Sikh, Hispanic, Mexican, Anglo, and come from diverse cultures, and spiritual beliefs. They represent all ages and cross multiple generations. They may appear different, but every day we work together to support our children, regardless of the color of their skin, their country of origin, their religious and spiritual beliefs, their politics, their gender or gender identity, or their sexuality or sexual orientation. 

We are privileged to work in and upon the ancient lands that have been stewarded by tribal communities, including the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh, which has allowed us to lease a space and reimagine it for the health and vibrancy of all those that move beautifully in it. 

Just as no single individual creates alone, MAE is successful because of our community partners. We work with government, businesses, foundations, schools and universities because we must. Our work is catalyzed by donations, large and small, allowing every child to participate regardless of income. 

My gratitude extends to my partner, Sal Ruiz, Executive Director, and the Staff of MAE, whose unwavering dedication moves the organization forward. I think especially of our teaching artists, who are the backbone of the work we do, even though they struggle to make ends meet. I think of our Board of Directors who resource time, energy and finances, to ensure we succeed. 

I think of all of the parents who believe in the potential of their children to rise, no matter how many times they fall, who selflessly take on any task we need done. 

Above all, I think of our youth. Every one of them has a story worth telling. I think of Alandra, who came to us with a serious disability at 4 years old, unable to walk or even communicate fully. Through her hard work, she is now an accomplished Folklorico and Flamenco dancer at 16, and a very vocal MC when handed a microphone. 

These are MY heroes and every single day they inspire me to try to spark a little compassion for one another. The challenges we face are great, but I truly believe that when we come together, our love, compassion, and creativity can spread to all of humanity. 

By lifting just one child, we all rise. 

Somos uno.