Montoya has dedicated his life to informing and
educating neglected and exploited peoples whose lives are at risk. Montoya says, "I feel that my art should reflect my political beliefs and be an art of protest. The struggle of all people must become part of our being as artists . . . Our images must speak of injustices and expose the creators of those injustices."
Mujer zapatista is inspired by the ongoing struggle of the autochthonous American Indians in Chiapas and elsewhere in southern Mexico, who have formed the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) in support of their quest for social justice. The image depicts a woman member of the Zapatistas, masked in the customary EZLN fashion so that her identity will not be revealed. The meaning of the assertion ¡Presente! extends, on the one hand, to the militant actions of the Mexican peasants to deliver themselves from their condition of marginalization and near invisibility, and, on the other, to the artist's function to bear witness to and esthetically frame that militancy.
Malaquías Montoya was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1938 and currently resides in northern California. His work has been exhibited at or collected by the San Francisco Art Institute; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; Wight Art Gallery, UCLA; The Mexican Museum, San Francisco; the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio; the Neuen Gesellschaft fur Bildende Kunst (NGBK), Berlin; and the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Mexico City. He was the first Chicano commissioned to paint a mural in Mexico.