National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is a federally recognized celebration of the culture and contributions Hispanic Americans have brought to this country. To help honor this time, each week The Proclaimer will shine a light on notable members of the community who are helping to promote the celebration of their heritage.
Before the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, Marlin Medrano’s Facebook consisted of cat videos and recipes. Now, you can find videos of her speaking at political rallies and inviting friends to come volunteer for various SoCal political organizations.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign was one of the main influences that led Medrano to politics.
“With Bernie, I found that I was invested on a whole different level… I jumped head-first,” she said. His “outside-of-the-box” approach proved that politics could be more than just what you see in the mainstream, shifting Medrano’s perspective on politics and what it implied about the future. Originally from Sylmar, Medrano recalled listening to Sanders while in college when he confronted Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, about how he could’ve saved banks from crashing.
“[His style] was a completely different idea and possibility… it made me start questioning things within my own perspective and life experience,” she said.
One of the first events that Medrano organized after this newfound sense of excitement in politics was a Democratic debate watch party at a local San Fernando Valley bar.
“I didn’t invite any of my personal friends,”she said. “I put it [out there to other supporters] about the Bernie event and it was amazing! Over 40 people packed this small, hole-in-the-wall bar… and I’m finding myself having conversations with people who I never would’ve engaged with in normal life, like having a passionate conversation about health care.”
This experience and the nature of those conversations were life-altering for Medrano, referring to California having a “solid blue government” and yet still not being able to pass more progressive, popular policies even with a Democratic supermajority. This first Democratic debate watch party turned into multiple, with over 120 attendees at the last event in the San Fernando Valley.
“It made me realize that ‘blue no matter who’ was not enough for me,” Medrano said of that first watch party.
Medrano threw her name in to run as a Democratic delegate representing the 29th Congressional District because she didn’t want “someone who doesn’t believe in Bernie’s message running in these positions to represent him.” As pretentious as it was, she thought, it was that mindset of “holding the purity” of Bernie’s message that truly drove her. Through running, she met several other candidates and organized Get out the Vote (GOTV) events as a weekly campaign. She built more relationships with other activists of color through this organizing and used it to solidify the groundwork for campaign mobilization in the SFV.
“I felt that I could own this, like own this little piece… I’m not doing it all but I can at least register [people to vote] and bring disenfranchised voters or people that don’t find any reason to be involved and try to share that same passion,” she said.
A few months later, Medrano was elected as the top female candidate for her district to go to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Medrano and her family have been living in the district since the 1960s, making it truly fulfilling for her to be able to represent her district on a political scale.
“I felt it really powerful [going to the convection and] to be a Chicana born and raised in this district,” she said.
Later on, Medrano became involved in the Progressive Caucus within the Democratic Party of California, the board of Americans for Democratic Action and the executive team of the Los Angeles chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.
“I want to be part of ground operations again, and be able to help bring the visibility of other Latinas and Chicanas of color in the work here we do in the Valley… everyone talks about Los Angeles; well, the Valley brings over 50% of the resources to L.A. County,” she said. “We don’t have the representation, we don’t have people that come out and try to rally our communities and there’s a lot of opportunity here and there’s a lot of people of color that work very hard to establish movement – some kind of wealth for their family.”
She’s seen a direct correlation with the success of elections and the involvement of ground operations/grassroots activism. With her community in particular, Medrano believed that they are sick of being “courted” every two to four years from politicians who are quick with the vote and tokenism.
“They know where to come, they know the buzzwords, they know the combination,” she said. “But what about the rest of us?” asks Medrano. “What about everyone that doesn’t connect to the message or the promises that aren’t delivered? The only way we connect with our community is being out there, reaching out, doing the groundwork, and connecting with our neighbors.”
As her father’s caregiver, a single mother of teenagers, a finance and marketing graduate of Loyola Marymount University and an activist, Medrano sees her different roles in life to be interconnected and change the perspectives that she brings to the table. Knocking on doors, sitting down to talk with folks around you are what produces real results, Medrano said.
With all of this work being put into the betterment of her community, self-care is an important practice to maintain, Medrano believes.
“It is easy to get consumed by your activism and the work that you do because it’s never ending… there’s always something you can do, always more you think you can give,” she said. “By doing that, it’s easy to empty your cup… As a natural born leader and organizer, you’re not only emptying you’re cup, but you’re trying to empty it into others. I can’t give to others if I don’t take the time to fill my own cup.”
She said she learned this while observing other dedicated, bright activists easily burn out. Medrano reminds herself to take breaks and set boundaries for herself with her political work. As she said, “At the end of the day I’m still a mom.” Something else Medrano’s had in mind for a while is the thought of creating a support group for female activists.
“We as women take on so much,” she began. “This revolution is led by women. The hardest working people behind the scenes are always women. It’s not something that we choose to do, it’s something that we just know to pick up because it needs to get done. We have to continue supporting not only our network but ourselves. We can’t be there for others if we burn ourselves out in the process.”
One of the other important lessons Medrano learned is breaking from the notion of purism within political spaces.
“There will never be a candidate socialist enough for me… in the real world, we then have to understand that these candidates still need to fund their campaign. There’s going to be compromises,” she stated. “Finding that balance and that compromise and that understanding that I’m not giving up my values by supporting this one-thing candidate.”
Looking ahead at the 2022 elections in the Santa Clarita Valley, where Medrano knows a good number of its activists, she said she’s watching closely at how things will shake up among the wide selection of candidates. She noted that to run for office in SCV, “you have to understand the landscape” when it comes to candidates from outside the region.
“You cannot come in and be like ‘I am a socialist!’ or ‘I support the far-left!’. That’s cute, you can be idealistic all you want but this is not that type of community,” she said. Medrano related this back to actually getting to knowing the “fundamental needs” of the voters and going “back to the basics and the human connection.”
Medrano then recounted one of her own experiences as a child with a family member in the military: “As much as I want to be like ‘down with the military-industrial complex!’, I’m a military baby…in this community, [the military] is the largest employer. How can you want them out of your community when they employ, feed and house so many of our neighbors?”
She emphasized that this example explained how it is important then for candidates to reconcile the needs of the district, but at the same time to not give up their values.
Finally, with respect to amplifying Hispanic voices, Medrano said there’s “a lot of people that know and acknowledge that we’re here, but at the same time don’t respect and amplify our voices.”
“There’s a lot of people that want to be an ally and speak for me and my community instead of giving me the mic,” she said. As a product of a multigenerational household in the valley, Medrano said she holds a lot of privilege of having the “security of this being [her] land” as well as having the perspective of being the daughter of an immigrant.
“If we don’t amplify the voices of those that have been here, with our generations of knowledge and bringing that to the forefront, we continue to repeat and not build on the work in the community that is already here.”
In these cross-perspectives that make up a multifaceted and hardworking activist, Medrano hopes to use her unique position as a Chicana in her space to further her causes and “open the doors for those not in the room.”
Tips? Leave a message with The Santa Clarita Valley Proclaimer: (661) 463-3228