How a kidnapping, trafficking survivor overcame the unthinkable
By LA Stories Staff California
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Nov. 28, 2022
Antonio Salazar-Hobson was born into a farm-working migrant family in Arizona, the 11th of 14 children.
At just 4 years old, he was kidnapped by the Hobsons — the next-door neighbors his family had grown to trust.
For years, Salazar-Hobson was sexually abused and trafficked at a guest ranch in central California. To outsiders, he was believed to be the Hobsons’ adopted son. Despite his attempts to run away and even take his own life, the abuse continued.
“I realized that I only had one way out, only one escape,” he said. “If I could just get that education, I wouldn’t be here anymore.”
In the latest episode of “LA Stories,” Salazar-Hobson shares with host Giselle Fernandez his powerful story of survival — one he also tells in his book, “Antonio, We Know You.”
The Hobsons enrolled him in school, where he quickly flourished. While in high school, Salazar-Hobson had a chance meeting with workers’ rights activist Cesar Chavez, which changed his life forever.
Chavez recognized how smart Salazar-Hobson was and encouraged him to become a labor lawyer. Though the Hobsons still tried to ruin his life while in college by attempting to get his scholarships revoked, Salazar-Hobson became one of the most successful labor lawyers in the country — just as Chavez predicted.
“It meant my entire life,” he said. “It gave me a sense of pride.”
Soon, Salazar-Hobson earned enough money to afford a private investigator who helped reunite him with his family — a reunion that he’d waited for his entire life. He found out that his family tried going to the authorities when he was kidnapped, but he said they were ignored because of the color of their skin.
Today, Salazar-Hobson is an advocate for missing and abused children of color, who are missing at disproportionately high rates.
“I was a dark, monolingual poor child, and I was considered utterly disposable,” he said. “We’re not a disposable people. We aren’t.”