Editor’s note: 48hills is doing a series of interviews featuring political activists who represent the Bay Area’s future. You can find more profiles here.
48HILLS: Introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Salvador Solorio-Ruiz, newly elected City Council member for the city of Delano. I am 25 years old and I use he/him/his pronouns.
48HILLS: Tell me a bit about your personal journey into Delano politics.
SALVADOR SOLORIO-RUIZ: Delano is the birthplace of the farm-labor rights movement with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong. Growing up in Delano, I always had the urge to get involved in politics and help my community. When I moved back home after college, I noticed a group of young people who were civically engaged and thought it was phenomenal. I remember thinking to myself, not only do they know the issues facing our community but they’re doing something about it.
An inspiration for me at the time was Councilmember Bryan Osorio, who was not only the same age as me but was also making a clear impact as a young person. At times, young people are shut down due to “lack of experience,” but Bryan showed young people that no matter your age, you can get involved in politics. So after attending council meetings, providing public comments and organizing the community on issues that mattered to me, I took it upon myself to run for Delano City Council.
48HILLS: How has your personal background and upbringing influenced your political career and direction?
SALVADOR SOLORIO-RUIZ: My personal background has absolutely influenced my political career. I am a first-generation college graduate and the son of immigrants. I was raised by hardworking farmworkers who came to the United States in search of opportunity, but the truth is that my personal story is not unique. It is the story of so many working-class families who, at the end of the day, are seeking opportunity.
48HILLS: You ran for Delano City Council at just 24 years old. Would you talk a bit about the race and how it felt to become elected?
SALVADOR SOLORIO-RUIZ: I knew that running for City Council would be hard not only because of my inexperience, but because of my age. We are raised to believe that if you go out and get your education, you can change the world, but when I decided to try, I received a lot of criticism because of my age.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says, “it’s not your age that counts, but the age of your ideas,” and so that is what I focused on in my race for City Council — the issues. Being elected to City Council meant so much not only for myself, but for my community.
For years, the Delano City Council has remained the same: Winning a seat meant the community could be represented by folks with fresh, new ideas. I ran on the slogan of “change can’t wait,” which let voters know the urgency and need for change. We have Democrats statewide, in Senate, Congress and City Council, but being a Democrat shouldn’t be the only green light for a vote. What matters is whether that Democrat fights for the working class and uplifts marginalized communities.
48HILLS: What does your perspective as a young person bring to the political table?
SALVADOR SOLORIO-RUIZ: Young people want to be represented, and want to know that those who already have a seat at the table will make room for their voices to be heard. My perspective is that no one politician is the answer. We need to continue to organize and hold all elected officials accountable. We are the change we seek.
48HILLS: During your race, you said that if elected, your priorities would include mitigating gang violence, protecting undocumented farm workers, and advocating for clean water accessibility. In your opinion, what is the most urgent social political issue facing California today?
SALVADOR SOLORIO-RUIZ: There are several urgent social issues facing California today — from access to healthcare and safe, clean drinking water, to climate change, housing and racial inequality, among others. America’s greatest issues have been intensified in California, not only during the COVID pandemic, but also before the pandemic with many communities facing adversity in different ways.
48HILLS: What actions can readers take to help?
SALVADOR SOLORIO-RUIZ: Get involved today. You are never too old or too young to get involved in politics. Write down what you care about and fight for it. Join an organization, donate, protest and even run for office.
48HILLS: What motivates you to do this work?
Political engagement is so important because politics — and especially local politics — determines our everyday life. I’m motivated to do this work for the benefit of future generations, including my little sister Skylar’s generation. As adults, we have an obligation to leave this world better than we found it; if I can do that, then I did my job.
48HILLS: Do you have a favorite book, movie, podcast or TV show to recommend on political activism?
SALVADOR SOLORIO-RUIZ: My favorite book is Our Revolution by Senator Bernie Sanders, and my favorite documentary movie is Knock Down The House on Netflix.
48HILLS: What makes someone a leader? Do you have any examples of political or personal leaders in your life?
A leader stands up for what they believe in, but at the same time makes sure they are making space for others. Leaders in my personal life are my folks and my friends. My favorite political leaders are Mayor Bryan Osorio, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. John Lewis.
48HILLS: You said to your voters, “the thing that I want you to feel and know … is that I will fight for you. I will fight for every single family that’s been left behind … I will fight for LGBTQ communities, for all communities that have not been focused on in many years, and when you see my name, I hope you feel a sense of hope.” What gives you hope?
SALVADOR SOLORIO-RUIZ: Knowing that I’m impacting someone’s life gives me hope. Young people and the future generations who are becoming adults and want inclusivity for all also give me hope because I know they will make positive change. And the idea of politicians standing up to powerful interests for the betterment of their communities gives me hope.
You can connect with Sal on social media: