Julio Salgado creates art influnced by undocumented life

The Otter Cross Cultural Center (OC3) of California State University, Monterey Bay virtually hosted Undocumented in Times of Crisis: Advocacy Through Art with Julio Salgado on Oct. 7. Salgado discussed his creative process and artwork inspiration, as well as the unifying power of communication when taking part in activism.

Salgado expressed the love his family showed him growing up, particularly his Tio. “My Tio lived his life so freely,” Salgado said. “By the time I came out, it was easier.” 

Having support was nothing uncommon in their household. Before moving to Huntington Park, Salgado and his family shared a studio apartment with his Tio in the Echo Park neighborhood.

Growing up undocumented in America not speaking English, he often got teased. However, artistic talents spoke for Salgado when words couldn’t and connected him to fellow students and teachers. 

“I would hand teachers my drawings and the other kids would see,” Salgado said. “Every time there was an art project, I was the one getting chosen.”

In his adulthood, Salgado briefly attended art school but found the tuition expensive and the subjects he was studying unrelatable. Since Salgado was undocumented, the idea of finding work was always at the forefront of his mind, however after stumbling upon a flyer for Long Beach City College’s newspaper, Salgado heard his calling and began drawing political cartoons.

Switching his major to journalism, Salgado eventually transferred to the California State University, Long Beach where he wrote for the school newspaper and established a column identifying political and community issues affecting other undocumented students. 

“I remember reading about undocumented immigrants,” Salgado said. “They were in the shadows.” 


Finding inspiration from author Gustavo Arrellano whose articles shine light on undocumented immigrants, Salgado reached out to Arellano inquiring about receiving a mentorship. “Gustavo was really accessible,” Salgado said. “He asked me to send him my work and he would give me feedback.”

The key lesson Salgado took away from his mentorship was doing more than just your art. He advised passionate creators to not only produce quality work but also to expand their knowledge and power within their community. 

In addition to advocating for political change, Salgado has now started to write about and provide different resources for LGBTQ+ folk.

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