Jan Jarboe Russell runs an article in MYSA.com on the mother of “los cuates” (Julian and Joaquin Castro) Rosie Castro. Of course, Joaquin is a State Representative and Julian is now the Mayor of San Antonio. Like many politicos, the brothers have a story, and the foundation of their story is their mom.
I met Rosie a few years ago at the Texas Democratic Convention in Houston. When she found out I was from Crystal City, TX, the conversation turned into memory lane as we traveled through the “Raza Unida days.”
Over her lifetime, Rosie has taken much mean-spirited, gratuitous criticism. In her 20s, she was the chair of the Bexar County Raza Unida Party, a third party inspired by the national civil rights movement of the 1960s. Some business leaders who would be ecstatic if their sons or daughters were doing as well as Rosie’s, privately dismissed Rosie as a radical or worse.
I see her as a heroine, not a radical. After all, she’s well-educated (with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree). She managed to support herself, her two boys and her mother, Victoria, who lived with her until her death. Today she works at Palo Alto College.
It’s not radical to embody the principles of community service and education; those are Rosie’s principles.
In the late 1960s and early 1970, the majority of citizens in San Antonio — that is, Mexican Americans — had very little access to political power.
In 1971, at the age of 23, Rosie ran for City Council on a slate called the Committee for Barrio Betterment. She finished second among four candidates in the primary for Place 3. The winner in that place was the Good Government League’s candidate, Charles Becker, whose family owned Handy Andy grocery stores. At the time, the GGL, an extension of the Anglo business establishment, picked all of the city’s elected leaders.
Though none of the candidates on Rosie’s slate won, voter turnout jumped from 33 percent in 1969 to 53 percent in 1971, a level of participation that has not since been repeated.
The election of 1971 was the last time the City Council was composed of all GGL members. The results helped the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) convince the U.S. Justice Department that San Antonio’s at-large system of election was illegal and paved the way in 1977 for single-member districts.
Indeed, Rosie helped open the doors for Latino representation, as well as growth in the Latino electorate. And for those in my generation who cherish the memories of the “movimiento” (and some of us still continue it), it is very important that we not only celebrate it, but teach it, and especially, not forget it.
For that reason, it was not a surprise when the first object that Castro hung on the walls of his office at City Hall was a 1971 campaign poster from his mother’s City Council race. It’s a symbol of who brought him to the table and a reminder of what he owes the next generation, including his daughter.
Great story about an awesome woman!