Although he is running for an at-large city council seat, much
of his political experience is based in his own
neighborhood—serving as the 5th and 6th
Ward area leader and as precinct committee person in the 5th
Ward. Those roles are instrumental in grassroots
get-out-the-vote campaigns for Democratic candidates. He started
15 years ago with a group known as Reclaim Lorain, after
seeing some inner-city wards get neglected in favor of more
affluent areas of the city.
“I want people to understand—I’m not the Wizard of Oz,” he said.
“I’m not coming in with a magic wand and abracadabra and all of
a sudden everything’s fixed. But I’m coming in with a passion
and love for this town I grew up in. I was here in its heyday. I
know what it was and can be. We can retool and remodel ourselves
and do other things differently. We’re right on the brink of
making that leap.”
Barrios, 71, recently launched a Facebook page for his candidacy
under a theme of “knocking down walls to unite the people,”
a direct reference to repeated attempts in Congress by President
Trump to get funding to build a wall along the Mexican border to
“Now is the time to create unity and I believe that all
residents together, can make changes happen for the good of all
citizens of this international city,” Barrios wrote on his
Facebook page. “In this moment of chaos and confusion, it is of
dire importance that cooler minds prevail and that we focus on
knocking down the walls that have been created to divide the
people. We must make room for healthy dialogue which will be the
best path for communication and uniting the people.”
Longtime Lorain City Council President Joel Arredondo
recently lost a bid to be appointed as a Lorain County
Commissioner, which is considered a full-time elected office.
The Lorain County Democratic Party central committee instead
chose Sharon Sweda for the appointment from a
six-candidate field. She recently ran unsuccessfully for a seat
in the Ohio Senate.
According to Barrios, one in five Lorain residents is Latino. He
believes the elected political representation should reflect the
makeup of the community, so their voice is heard on issues.
There are two other Latino Lorain city councilmen, but Angel
Arroyo is not running for re-election. Barrios and another
Latino candidate, Ray Carrion, if both are elected, would
increase the Hispanic influence in city politics.
Barrios is running for at-large seat because he wants to see
more sections of the city get attention. For example, he
believes the momentum of the current downtown development should
be moving at a faster pace.
“We should be putting more assets and whatever we have as
resources into making that the place of destination. We should
be working a lot more on that,” he said, while emphasizing the
arts could be a catalyst for more businesses to locate there and
As executive director of the Lorain Arts Council, Barrios
is very active in the northern Ohio arts scene. He was
instrumental in the unveiling last September of a large
veterans’ mural in the downtown area, a five-month project
designed to help veterans cope with their post-war struggles and
find their purpose through art. Veterans went through
instruction in painting, water colors, and drawing—then created
wooden paddles depicting various “stories.”
Barrios also hosts the weekly “Sabor Latino” radio show
on WDLW Kool Kat Oldies 1380 AM and 98.9 FM, a three-hour
program focusing on current issues facing the Latino community.
Interspersed in discussion and interviews is throwback “Jibaro”
music. Barrios even finds time to be a small business owner with
FrameWorks, which focuses on photography and video.
Barrios has served as president of the Puerto Rican Culture
Committee and vice president of the Coalition for
Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress (CHIP), an advocacy
group working to ensure there is growing Latino influence in the
political and economic landscape of northern Ohio.
Barrios was born
in Santurce, Puerto Rico, but moved to Lorain at the age of four
with his mother and siblings. His father preceded the family to
northern Ohio as part of the first group of 500 Puerto Rican men
brought to Lorain to work in the steel mills. He grew up in a
low-income, working-class neighborhood of mostly sugar cane
workers before his family settled in Lorain.
Their life stateside started in the basement of a friend’s
house. He worked as a young boy picking produce in the fields,
while his family sent him to Catholic schools through the eighth
grade. He moved to public school and graduated from Lorain
Admiral King High School, then attended Lorain County
Community College for an associate’s degree in computer
technology and Cleveland State University, where—when
time permits—he is working towards obtaining a bachelor’s degree
in film and digital media.