Roger Montoya of Española was honored recently as one of ten recipients of CNN's Heroes of 2019 for his work with Moving Arts Española, a local youth center he founded in 2007 to help children process trauma through art. RALI New Mexico is honored to know Roger and congratulates him for this recognition. He helped organize and hosted our kick-off event in Española and has remained a great supporter of our work to help end opioid misuse and addiction.
Española's Roger Montoya honored as CNN hero
By Dillon Mullan
Española’s Roger Montoya was honored Sunday night as one of 10 CNN Heroes of 2019, offering a heartfelt tribute to his hometown before a national television audience.
Montoya was recognized by the network for Moving Arts Española, a local youth center that draws about 175 kids every day to classes ranging from ballet to cartoon drawing to gymnastics to African drumming. He founded the organization in 2007 as a way to help children process trauma through art.
Montoya was introduced during the program by actress Judith Light.
“My life’s challenges have taught me that art is medicine. I have seen children move from trauma and constriction to trust,” Montoya said during the live gala in New York City honoring the heroes of 2019 from around the world.
“The recipe is simple: A vacant building becomes a place of nourishment, culture and love,” Montoya said. “Untapped artists share their gifts and their wisdom. Children in need, they find inspiration and they find their own voices.”
Freweini Mebrahtu was selected as the CNN Hero of the Year and will receive $100,000 for her charity, which increases access to menstrual supplies to girls in Ethiopia. Other finalists included a woman who started a domestic violence shelter that allows pets and a man who refurbishes old RVs to give to families displaced by wildfires.
Moving Arts Española is located in a former casino on the pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh. In a phone interview, Montoya, who was named one of The New Mexican‘s 10 Who Made a Difference in 2000, said he was working as a professional dancer in New York City in 1986 when he tested positive for HIV. He then moved home to Española to paint Northern New Mexico and help youth manage trauma through art, first through the public schools and now with the nonprofit.
“Please join me in sharing this award with my beloved and resilient community in Española, New Mexico,” Montoya said during the broadcast. “It is the beautiful, beautiful place I call home. When we lift just one child, we all rise. We are one.”
Like Montoya, boxer Monica Lovato, a fellow Española native, was recognized as a CNN Hero in 2007 for her efforts to help local kids by opening a youth boxing gym.