Ray Solís, long Latino community leader, dies

In Our Memory
Albania Alegría
Youth Historian of the Latino History Project, Oakland Museum of California

I am currently attending California State University Hayward and working in the education department of the Oakland Museum of California. I feel very privileged in having the opportunity to interview and research such profound history of our bay area Hispanic community. I hope this will continue to evolve and inspire youth in preserving the history of our elders.

Imagine a six-year-old boy from Jalisco, Mexico paying two cents to cross the border of the United States with his family, in hopes of reaching the American dream. Coming to this country in 1917 working from Kansas, in the Santa Fe railroads, to Oakland, California, in the Union Pacific railroads, striving to live a better life than before. Little did this young boy know of what gratifying satisfaction he would bring to the people of his community.
Are you wondering who this boy is? This boy turned into a man of everyone's dreams. Ray Solis, a man who fought against injustices of our country. A man who not only protested in the streets of Berkeley during the Vietnam War, but a man who went out of his way to help investigate a suspected murder by police. He would not have been able to achieve these goals without the help of J.P. Fernandez, a friend who introduced him the idea of creating a Hayward chapter of the Mexican Political Association (MAPA). Although Fernandez told him that he only needed fifteen people to make the MAPA Hayward chapter possible, Solis was really excited about this idea that he invited one hundred fifteen people. With this achievement, Ray Solis became the president of MAPA chapter in Hayward in 1972.
Reminiscing about the stories, he once told me of his youth and political life. He made me realize of the importance of helping our community in whatever way we can. Although the MAPA chapter in Hayward no longer exists, the spirit and legend of Ray Solis still survives. I am deeply honored to have met such a wonderful and inspiring man, who left the beginning of a long path for young people to follow and fight the battles of injustices in our community.
"Nací en Mexico pero me críe aqui. Mi obligacíon es para Los Estados Unidos pero mi corazón está en Mexico." (I was born in Mexico but raised in the United States. My responsibility is to the United States but my heart is for Mexico.)---Ray Solis.

Ray Solis passed away on September 12, 2003.

Mexican born Hayward resident devoted 50 years to aiding fellow immigrants
Ray Solís regarded every day in his adopted hometown of Hayward as a challenge.
For five decades, he cajoles, negotiated, argued and worked on behalf of programs, policies and services that would help other immigrants from México.
"Nací en México, me crié aquí" (I was born in México, but was raised here.) Mr. Solís told an interviewer for the Oakland Museum's Latino History Project earlier this year. "Mi obligación es para los Estados Unidos pero mi corazón está en México" (My responsibility is to the United States, but my heart is in México).
Mr. Solís died Friday, Sept. 12, at Kaiser Hospital in Haywrd. He was 91.
In the 1970s, Hayward City Councilwoman Doris Rodriquez began working with Mr. Solís and other community activists on a center which would provide Latinos with counseling, social services and recreation programs. The effort took more than 20 years, Rodriquez said.
Now she describes the community center on Fuller Avenue in north Hayward, operated by La Familia Counseling Services, as one of the monuments to Mr. Solís' persistence.
"He was a decent, hardworking man, whose motives were pure and in the interests of the neighborhoods he represented," Rodriquez reminisced. "People always knew that, if you wanted something done, go to Ray."
Since the mid-50s, when Mr. Solís moved to Hayward, much of his helping was on a personal level.
He helped elderly people straighten out problems involving Social Security checks. He translated for Spanish-speaking immigrants who were in trouble with the law. He coached Little League when his sons were small and helped organize the Aztlán Boxing Club, which gave young men a place to exercise and stay out of trouble.
He solicited donations of food and household items for Mexican Americans who needed them. And he donated money to help residents of San Felipe, México, Hayward's sister city.
Mr. Solís, a retired electrician and construction worker, was a founder of La Familia and, in the 1960s, the Mexican American Political Association. The latter organization was formed to endorse Mexican American
political candidates and causes.
Mr. Solís once told a Daily Review reporter his aim in life was to teach people to fend for themselves through political action.
"My ambition has always been to teach Mexican American people to register to vote so they can get what they deserve," he said.
The association was instrumental in backing the late Charlie Santana in successful races for the Hayward City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors, said Susan Ojeda-Cobos.
Ojeda-Cobos recalls going with her parents, the late Trinindad and Julia Ojeda, to meetings in the 1960s and 1970s. Local Latino leaders such as Mr. Solís and his wife, Marietta, "would work on projects to make things easier for Latinos."
"They were the ones who made the road for us to keep following," she said.
Mr. Solís was born in the state of Jalisco, México. His family, including his four siblings, immigrated to Kansas in 1917 to escape the Mexican Revolution. As a teenager, Mr. Solís was among only a few people in the
community of Emporia, Kansas, who could interpret for the growing number of Mexican immigrants working on the railroad and in factories.
He moved to Chicago during the Depression. Mr. Solís came to California in the pre-World War II years, living in Fresno, Tracy and Oakland, before moving to Hayward.
Mr. Solís is survived by Marietta, his wife of 49 years; six sons, Patrick Solís, Rick Solís and Ernest Solís, all of Hayward; and Jesse Solís, Philip Solís
and Richard Solís of Kansas; 24 grandchildren; 23 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by three sons, Max, John and Raymond Solís.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Chapel of the Chimes Memorial Park, Mission Chapel, 22299 Mission Blvd.

Karen Holzmeister, Daily Review, Hayward, September 17, 2003

Ray Solís, with Ramón Parada, presenting the César E. Chávez bronze plaque to the community at the Hayward Public Library. 3/31/2001. Photo by Martín Arredondo

Ray y Marieta Solís

In my eyes I see a man who fought for the Mexican American. I see a person who showed the white people that Mexican Americans have the right to live without being discriminated. I see a man who was willing to do anything to get the rights we deserve. For me, he is one of the greatest men who fought for us in the San Francisco Bay Area. He proved that the Mexican American community has a lot of power, but we don't use it for being afraid of the white people.
In November 12, 1911 Marcimileana gave birth to Ray Solís in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Marcimileana was from Nuevo León, Guanajuato. His dad was Hill Solís; he was born in Guanajuato too. He was the third of five family members. They lost all their money during the Mexican Revolution, so in 1915, they headed to Veracruz. In 1917, they had to move to Aguascalientes because his grandfather lived there. In that same year his father came to the United States. He stayed here for one year and then went back. In 1918, his dad came back bringing his family with him. In those times people charged you two cents to cross the Border. In 1918 he went to Kansas. His mother died and the next year his father died. Both of his parents died of old age. Later on he moved to California; he was the only one of his family to move to California.
He later moved with his wife who was named Rosa. When he moved to Chicago he earned 72 dollars per week. He worked for the mafia without knowing. In 1938 he found out and decided to move to California because he thought he was going to be killed. In 1945 Rosa left him with four kids. The oldest one died later. In 1953 he got to know Marietta, his future wife. He was 42 years old when he married Marietta. Marietta was 17 years old. In those times the bus drivers were on strike, so she needed a ride to get to school. Ray Solís was the person who went to pick her up. His parents sent her back to New Mexico. She wanted to come back with Ray, so she told her parents that she wanted to live with his other family member in California. When she got here to California, she married Ray Solís.
Ray Solís was one of the first eight founders of the Hayward chapter of the Mexican American Political Association. Ray Solís began his civil rights struggle when he was called by a friend and told him that they needed to gather some members to create a new chapter in Hayward. In 1962 he was told to get fifteen other members but instead he brought around 135 members. In 1972 he was elected president of the Hayward chapter.
He did a lot of good things for the Hispanic community. For example, one day a young man got in a big discussion with another girl. The neighbors saw what was happening and decided to call the police, but when the police arrived they killed the young man. As an excuse, they said that they killed him because he was bringing something out shiny and they thought it was a weapon. Ray Solís then decided to have a further investigation, so he took the clothing that the young man was wearing at the time of the incident and took it to UC Berkeley. There, the investigators saw that the clothing had white powder of the bullets. The only way that the powder could have gotten there was if he had been closely shot, when he was on the floor. Ray Solís came to the conclusion that when the young man was agonizing on the floor he was shot more times even though he couldn't do anything against them.
Later on, he began to work in the police office. There he was the person who hired the new police officers. In that time he began to change the Hispanic community to a better place. Although he was fighting for every Hispanic, racism and discrimination was still around us.
Ray Solís was also a person who helped the people in the community. When he was president of M.A.P.A., a couple died in a car crash leaving two kids orphaned. The only person who could take care of them was their grandmother, who had a small house so she couldn't take care of them properly. Ray Solís decided to help them by gathering people to build a new house for them. Ray Solís also helped kids get into college. When he was president, he and his wife, with the rest of M.A.P.A members organized fundraisers and whoever raised the most money would get the most money and the other people who participated would also get money. It all ended when a participant got selfish and wanted all the money because she got the most. The family sued M.A.P.A. and won it, that is why that ended. Ray Solís has done many things for the Hayward Hispanic community. We thank Ray Solís for all the things he has done and admire him for all the things he had to go through.

The author is La Alianza de Hayward's 2002 Cinco de Mayo Art & Essay Contest Winner Jesús Díaz · 11th grade · Hayward High School · Teacher: Ms. Stipe

Ray Solís, with Ramón Parada and two dancers, unveiling the César E. Chávez bronze plaque to the community at the Hayward Public Library. 3/31/2001. Photo by Martín Arredondo.

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