José Montoya, a founding member of the Royal Chicano Air Force, regrettably passed away yesterday (9/25/13) at the age of 81. José became one of the Chicano Movement’s great poets and artists. He is remembered for his melancholic poem “El Louie,” which became an anthem depicting the realities of the urban struggles facing Chicanas/os in the 1970s.
“El Louie” represented the first significant attempt by Chicanos to reclaim the image of the Pachuca/o. According to Raúl Villa, many scholars faulted Montoya “for glorifying what they considered to be a sordid aspect of community history, better left forgotten.”
José Montoya’s groundbreaking poem, however, eventually influenced a generation of Chicana/o artists and activists, such as Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino, who saw in the Pachuca/o a revolutionary figure who dared to challenge the status quo.
“El Louie” ruptured the conventional “rules” of traditional poetry through the use of Spanish, English, and Caló to give voice and humanity to his characters. The structure of the poem resembles and flows like a hip-hop verse.
José Montoya will be remembered for his contributions to the Chicana/o art movement as well as for his activist work. His son Richard Montoya is a member of the Chicano comedy troupe Culture Clash.
José Montoya – Que en Paz Decanse
Hoy enterraron al Louie
And San Pedro o sanpinche are in for it. And those times of the forties
and the early fifties
lost un vato de atolle.
Kind of slim and drawn, there toward the end, aging fast from too much booze y la vida dura. But
class to the end.
En Sanjo you’d see him sporting a dark topcoat playing in his fantasy
the role of Bogart, Cagney or Raft.
Era de Fowler el vato, carnal de Candi y el Ponchi – Los Rodríguez – the Westside knew ’em and
Selma, even Gilroy.
48 Fleetline, two-tone — buenas garras and always rucas
— como la Mary y la Helen… siempre con liras bien afinadas cantando La Palma, la que andaba en el florero.
Louie hit on the idea in those days for tailor-made drapes, unique idea — porque Fowler no era nada como Los, o’l E.P.T. Fresno’s westside was as close as
we ever got to the big time,
But we had Louie and the Palomar, el boogie, los
mambos y cuatro suspiros del alma — y nunca faltaba the gut-shrinking love – splitting, ass-hole-uptight-bad news —
Trucha, esos! Va ‘ber pedo!
No llores, Carmen, we can handle ’em.
Ese, ‘on tal Jimmy? Hórale, Louie Where’s Primo?
Va ‘ber catos!
En el parking lot away from the jura.
Trais filer? Simón?
Chale, ese! Oooooh, este vato!
And Louie would come through — melodramatic music, like in the mono – tan tan tarán! Cruz
Diablo, El Charro Negro! Bogard smile (his smile as deadly as his vaisas!) He dug roles, man, and names — like blackie, little Louie… Ese Louie…
Chale, call me “Diamonds”, man! Y en Korea fue soldado de
levita con huevos and all the paradoxes del soldado raso
— heroism and the stockade!
And on leave, jump boots shainadas and ribbons, cocky from the war, strutting to early mass on Sunday morning.
Wow, is that el Louie
Mire, comadre, ahí va el hijo de Lola!
Afterward he and fat Richard would hock their bronze stars for piste en el Jardín Canales y en el Trocadero
At barber college he came out with honors. Despúes empeñaba su velardo de la peluca pa’ jugar pócar serrada and lo ball en Sanjo y Alvizo.
And “Legs Louie Diamond” hit on some lean times…
Hoy enterraron a Louie.
Y en Fowler at Nesei’s
pool parlor los baby chooks
se acuerdan de Louie, el carnal del Candi y el Ponchi – la vez que te fileriaron en el Casa Dome y
cuando se cateo con La Chiva.
Hoy enterraron al Louie.
His death was an insult porque no murió en acción – no lo mataron los vatos, ni los gooks en Korea.
He died alone in a rented room – perhaps like in a
The end was a cruel hoax. But his life had been remarkable!
Vato de atolle, el Louie Rodríguez.
— poem by José Montoya