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Adolfo Guzman Lopez: Traveling Many Paths

Author: Mimi Pollack
Created: 03 February, 2017
Updated: 13 September, 2023
4 min read

Adolfo Guzman Lopez
Adolfo Guzman Lopez

What makes Adolfo Guzman Lopez tick? That is a question I have asked myself for a long time. Adolfo is a man who went from being an undocumented immigrant to graduating from UCSD. He has gone from the Taco Shop Poets to being reporter for KPBS and KPCC.
Adolfo Guzman Lopez was born in Mexico City in 1969. He moved to Tijuana when he was three and at the age of seven, his mother brought him over to San Diego where she worked cleaning houses in Pacific Beach and La Jolla.  Many days after school, Adolfo would be with her while she was working.
Adolfo was a bright and easy going child, and one of his mother’s patrons took an interest in them, which lead to Adolfo becoming enrolled at Kate Sessions Elementary School in La Jolla. At his new school, Adolfo was one of the few Mexicans there, but he learned to get along with everyone and absorb all everything going on around him.
He attended Mission Bay High School, where he did well academically, but because of his background, it was sometimes hard for him to form lasting friendships. At the same time, he found he was growing apart from the rest of his family. He was in-between two worlds.
Spanish was still the dominant language at home, and his parents gave him little reinforcement when it came to his studies. His parents were always so busy and they didn’t have time to follow up with him. Adolfo’s parents were also strict and didn’t allow him to go out much. Despite that, Adolfo went on to become not only a successful student, but also fluent in English and Spanish, writing poetry in both languages.
While still in high school, he began to work and clean at the Oakwood Garden Apartments. Many retired Jews and WWII veterans lived there and Adolfo became friends with them. He liked to listen to their stories, and this had a positive influence on him. It paved the way for his future as  a good reporter likes to listen to others’ stories.
He was also positively influenced by one of his counselors in high school who saw how motivated and determined he was and encouraged him to apply to UCSD, where he began studying in 1987.
But Adolfo had a secret his counselors and mentors didn’t know. Until his senior year in high school, he had lived in San Diego as an undocumented immigrant. In 1986, when the amnesty law was passed under Ronald Reagan, he was able to get a green card. He became a citizen in 2000.
At UCSD, Adolfo studied political science. While at the La Jolla campus, he attended many of the talks given at the Institute of the Americas and worked with La Voz Fronteriza where he got the journalism bug. He graduated in 1994 with a degree in political science.
It was at UCSD that he met Adrian Arancibia and Miguel Angel Soria, and in 1994 the Taco Shop Poets were born. Inspired by the Puerto Rican poet Jesus Papoleto Melendez, they wanted to combine the spoken word with jazz, and perform for the people in taco shoåps, coffeehouses, etc.  Mikey Figgins joined them on bass and Kevin Green on drums.
A year later Thomas Riley joined, and they began to tour around California and the United States, enjoying increasing popularity. The ride lasted until 2004 when they went their separate ways. Today, Adolfo, Adrian and Tomas occasionally get together to perform.
In 1993, Adolfo began working as a freelance reporter at KPBS, becoming a news talk show producer in 1996. He also launched a daily Gen-X arts and culture show called, “The Lounge” which featured in studio performances. Sean Lennon was one of his guests. His success at KPBS led him to KPCC in Los Angeles where he has been working as an education reporter ever since.
Love also led him north, where he now lives in Long Beach. In 1992, he met Lisa Saltzman, and they began dating. She was studying to be a lawyer, and was later hired by a firm in Orange County. They married in 2002 and have two children.
Since they decided to raise the children as Jews, Adolfo wanted to learn more about the Jewish faith. They joined Temple Israel in Long Beach. In 2011, where he began to attend Saturday morning Torah classes as a way to have more intellectual stimulation and connection. He views himself as an observant non-Jew who is a part of the tribe.
Being torn between worlds seems to be part of Adolfo’s life path. From the time he was a young child, curiosity has been his operating method. This same desire to learn and grow has led him on many different paths successfully.

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