Julio Montano Montenegro is a trained anthropologist and the founder of the Artistic Dance Corporation "Ecos del Pacifico," (CADEP), a member of the Process of Black Communities. The organization's objectives are to promote and preserve the Afro-Colombian culture of the Pacific coast of the Department of Narino, and to help save children and youth from the problems of social decay, and instill a sense of cultural pride and knowledge of human rights through art under the theme "Make Free Time, Time for Art" (Haz del Tiempo Libre, Tiempo del Arte). The corporation includes a dance academy, marimba school, a cultural studies center, a community and cultural radio station, and the Festival of Currulao.
Marta Arboleda Ortiz is an elementary school teacher and instructor, as well as a dancer with CADEP. Together, Julio and Martha have written several books about Afro-Colombian myths and legends that serve to educate Afro-Colombian people, especially youth, about their history and traditional values.
The Montano Arboleda family, like so many others in Colombia, has been caught in the middle of a complex civil war that has raged for four decades and taken the lives of over 200,000 people.
They have never participated in any of the violence, which pits the Colombian military and their right-wing paramilitary allies against guerrillas. Rather, Julio and Martha have worked to build peace, creating programs that work to preserve traditional African-Colombian culture and give young people constructive activities in the arts, as an alternative to the violence of the streets and the brutal war. By denouncing human rights violations and defending the rights of their people, Julio and Martha have challenged those who live by intimidation and violence. Because of their human rights work, they have been under threat in Colombia and have had to move to the United States, along with their 13-year-old son Charlie Daniel, for the time being.
All three members of the family are accomplished professional dancers, musicians, and artists. They are keenly interested in using their talents and experiences to teach about Afro-Colombian culture, and to promote the cause of justice, peace and human rights in Colombia.