Sacramento boy wins Mexican art contest

Juan Misael Gonzalez-Montanez, a shy 8-year-old who loves to draw, has won his family of six its first-ever computer.

Juan, a third-grader at the Smythe Academy in North Sacramento, was one of 15 top winners in an international art competition sponsored by the Mexican government.

His award-winning crayon and watercolor picture shows the first flag of Mexican independence containing the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe, an important national and religious symbol in Mexico. The flag was raised by Father Miguel Hidalgo on Sept. 15, 1810.

Hidalgo -- with his now famous grito, or yell -- rallied the town of Dolores to battle the Spaniards. "Hidalgo proclaimed the end of slavery in all Mexico, including California," said Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the consul general of Mexico in Sacramento.

"Our independence was not achieved until 11 years later, after a long and bloody war, and Father Hidalgo was killed in less than a year," said Gonzalez Gutierrez.

Juan was the first Sacramento winner in the 13-year history of the competition. Este Es Mi Mexico -- This Is My Mexico -- was sponsored by the Mexican government for children 7 to 11.

This year's theme was the bicentennial of Mexican independence and centennial of the Mexican Revolution.

Other winning submissions depicted the revolution that began Nov. 20, 1910, to overthrow President Porfirio Diaz, who had ruled Mexico for more than 30 years.

Juan was one of 15 top winners out of 6,266 entries worldwide for the official 2010 Mexican calendar. The top 120 drawings -- done by children as far away as Russia and Argentina -- will be part of an exhibition at the History Gallery in the Museo del Caracol in Mexico City, where Juan was born.

"I draw 15 to 20 minutes a day," said Juan. "I like making the Mexican flag and stuff."

His sister Adriana, 13, added, "he also draws cars, superheroes, a lot of stuff." She called the winning picture "a good thing so I can remember about Mexican history, and I want to learn more about my Mexican culture."

It's also a good thing because the family -- which includes Luis, 12, and Daniela, 15 -- will finally get a computer, a $1,500 desktop, this week.

"I'll do my homework -- math projects in pre-algebra -- and check my grades," said Adriana. "Right now it's hard because I have to go to the library to use a computer and sometimes it's not open."

Juan could have chosen a digital camera, a drawing kit or school supplies, but he chose the computer.

"I want him to do his homework, mainly," said his dad, Daniel Gonzalez.

"It's beautiful," he said of his son's drawing, "I know he draws all the time but I never knew he submitted it."

Gonzalez said he came to Sacramento from Michoacan in 2000. Five years later, the family joined him. Gonzalez is now a cook in a local restaurant while Juan's mother, Maria Gonzalez Montanez, works at a plastics factory.

Juan was honored Sept. 15 on the steps of the Capitol before 5,000 Mexican Americans celebrating Hidalgo's call to arms 200 years ago, the consul general said.

But Juan doesn't plan to become an artist. "I want to be a cook like my dad," he said.

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