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New mural at Guillen track honors Bowie grad who ran in the Olympics

Mural of Javier Montez

(GUILLEN MIDDLE SCHOOL -- Oct. 19, 2021) — The Bowie community on Tuesday unveiled a larger-than-life mural of Javier Montez on the track at Guillen Middle during a ceremony that recognized the contributions of the 1948 Bowie grad who in 1952 ran in the Helsinki Olympics. 

The 13-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide mural by renowned artist Jesus “Cimi” Alvarado shows a 15-year-old Montez during his Bowie days, when the school occupied what is now Guillen. Passersby on South Cotton will see a wood cutout with a combination of spray paint and brush celebrating El Paso’s first Olympic athlete on the track crouching down as if ready to start a race.

“He would be so proud,” said daughter Marcia Montez-Smith. “He loved Bowie. He loved the community here and he was proud to be from here.”

She had gotten a sneak peak of the mural on the news prior to the official unveiling but was awestruck to see it in person.

“I was struck about how amazing it is and what a good likeness it is,” Montez-Smith said. “It’s just beautiful. I’m very touched and grateful.”

The accomplished runner who excelled in track by winning state in 1947 with a 4:25 minute mile run, earned a scholarship to run at Texas Western University. He graduated with a degree in electronic engineering and earned a Master of Science degree from NMSU. 

Montez was called to active duty in the army, serving in the Korean War as a platoon leader and honorably discharged as a first lieutenant. Professionally, Montez spent his entire career as an electronics engineer at the U.S. Army Air Defense Board at Fort Bliss. The UTEP and El Paso Athletic Hall of Famer also ran for the El Paso School Board, serving two 6-year terms. 

“This is the work I love to do – tell the stories of my community,” said Alvarado, a 1996 Bowie grad. This is a special piece for me. The most important purpose of the artwork is to teach the community our own history. Tell our stories.”

Alvarado hopes the piece will encourage students to research the history of the Segundo Barrio and document the accomplishments of those who lived and grow up in the neighborhood.

“We need to tell more of the stories like this,” Alvarado said. “The story of Mr. Montez is so important to our youth. We need those images here so that our youth can research the accomplishments of the people who work in Segundo Barrio and live in Segundo Barrio and have helped built this city. The city needs to recognize it.”

The mural project began with an idea from Guillen head custodian Osvaldo Velez, a 1996 Bowie grad and history buff. He read about Montez and wanted to share his story, and his successes with a new generation and future generations of Bowie and Guillen students. 

“I’m excited and happy that people know the history of this community and this school – the good things that he did, his accomplishments and the ‘si, se puede’ thing,” Velez said, who’s worked at Guillen for 20 years. “You can be young and a great athlete or you can become whatever you want. I’m really proud of this school I work for.” 

The community will once again honor Montez during the spring at Bowie’s annual track invitational, which will bear the lifelong runner’s name and include an event he competed in back in the 1940s – the 1,500-meter race. 

“Running was a great love in his life. He went on a three mile jog a week before he passed,” she said. “He loved to run and loved watching others run.”

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photos by Leonel Monroy