Santa Rosa man trying to help others change their lives


SANTA ROSA — With tears rolling down his face, Manuel Montemayor remembers being controlled by drugs since he was 21.

Partying and drinking became a daily activity to the point where he saw no light ahead.

However, it all turned around after meeting Linda Tate, a pastor dear to him.

Now Montemayor has seen more than one light — plenty of them, in fact, since he stars in a movie about his life.

“The Way Out” was recently screened in his hometown of Santa Rosa and has no blood, no shootings, no cursing and no nudity, which is what Montemayor wanted.

“This movie has a lot of action, and will show all of what I went through, but I wanted to make sure children could watch it so that families that are involved in cartels can see the damage,” Montemayor said.

He now speaks openly about his addictions and works as a public speaker for teenagers with criminal records to remind them there is a way to turn their lives around.

“I am trying to tell the world that drugs lead you to nothing. Drugs lead to more problems, and I want these youngsters to know there is a God,” Montemayor said. “Ask for God’s help, appreciate mom and dad. They help us and guide us through battles. I have run with the devil, but God has not left me.”

The movie will be shown July 20 at 6 p.m. in Mission at 905 N. Conway Ave.

Cast and crew of the movie The Way Out; starring Manuel Montemayor from Santa Rosa.
Elsa Cavazos/Valley Morning Star

Montemayor credits Tate’s power of prayer as the force that allowed him to move past his demons and showcase his life to help younger generations.

Montemayor credits his soberness to Tate, who met him when he tried to go inside her house.

“I was cutting grass to make a little bit of money, but no one wanted to hire me. I was still on parole and I (tested) positive in a drug test,” he said.

Montemayor remembers seeing a beautiful house. He stepped out of his car, knocked on the door, and Tate’s young daughter said they did not need yard work, but they did need landscaping.

“I said I was the man she was looking for, but I knew nothing about landscaping,” Montemayor said.

This is where Tate came into his life and gave him a chance to prove himself.

Montemayor would break things on purpose from her yard and then fix them in exchange for money.

“I knew he was lying and looking for drugs, but I didn’t let that stop me from praying for him. I prayed for three days straight when he left, and I knew he would one day come back,” Tate said.

Montemayor worked for Tate for a short while and then did not see her again until eight years later.

He sobered up when he saw her again and has been sober now for 12 years.

But the journey to get to where he is today was not easy.


Montemayor recalls the first time he fell in love and got married. But he also remembers his first wife Antonia was the reason for his fallout in life.

He met her at 19 while living in Indiana. Soon after love struck, he decided to marry her. Even after his parents disagreed, Antonia became his wife and she gave birth to their son Manuelito.

But three years later his life completely changed after Antonia died of kidney failure.

“When my wife died was when I was first introduced to drugs. I was 21 and it was 1978, and I started hanging out with people that used drugs and introduced me to easy, illegal money,” Montemayor said.

Easy money became tempting to him, and with no parents around or a good support system, Montemayor began to live a lifestyle he would later regret.

“I was transporting 3,000 illegal aliens and smuggling them through 18 wheelers across the checkpoints. Every time I did it I would receive $1,000,” he said.

Montemayor said he was making enough illicit money to buy a bar he named “La sirenita” in 1983.

At the bar, Montemayor charged patrons $500 to watch his female employees dance nude to a song.

“I would give them $150 from the $500 I received,” he said about his employees. “All kinds of people attended and bought drugs from me. I felt untouchable, with a lot of friends and women.”

By this time, Montemayor had remarried and his then wife was helping run the toxic business.

In 1988, he was caught with one kilo of cocaine, which sent him to prison for the second time, where he spent five years.

His previous run-ins with the law included a driving under the influence charge in 1994, which put him on probation for two years. Three months later, he got another DUI.

He married a third woman, but she divorced him because he was in prison.

“Everyone began to turn their back on me. When I came out of prison, 10 days later my mom passed away,” Montemayor said.

The moment that finally made him turn his life around was when he reconnected with Tate.

Montemayor remembers feeling lonely and recalls that many of his friends and people he thought cared about were only there for him because of money and parties. But not Tate. She was there for him.

One night, while he was with friends from California, he met Juan Vazquez, the director of the movie “Through the Valley,” which features Danny Trejo.

Four months after their encounter, Vazquez called Montemayor to ask him to star in the movie.

Montemayor was able to reach out to sponsors to finance the movie and tell his story his way.

“If it had not been for (Tate) I don’t know where I would be, but the way God talks to her showed me God had a plan for me and each one of us.”