Rising Democratic Latino Stars: Who Are Joaquin and Julian Castro?
Twin brother Joachin introduced him and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gave the Democratic National Convention’s keynote address and knocked it out of the park. So, just who are these young, Latino political superstars? Julian’s speech told us some things: Their grandmother was forced by economic circumstances to emigrate to the San Antonio. She learned to read and write both Spanish and English before she died. They were raised by a single mother who worked as a domestic but enabled them to win scholarships to Stanford University.
Born 16 September 1974 (the younger twin by one minute), raised on San Antonio’s West Side and educated in the public school system. Like the majority of Mexican-Americans, the Castros are Catholic (there is also a large and growing minority of Pentecostals). Joaquin is still single. Joachin graduated high school a year early at near the top of his class. He majored in Political Science at Stanford University, graduating with honors (B.A.) in 1996. He then went to Harvard University Law School, earning his J.D. in 2000. He returned to San Antonio at age 28, he was elected to the Texas Legislature where he is completing his 5th term as a state representative for District 125 which includes most of San Antonio. In the Texas House, Joachin has championed green energy (in TEXAS!), managed to restore millions of dollars in education and health care money for lower income people, and has pushed progressive programs in teen pregnancy prevention, mental health care, and juvenile justice—none of which are causes that lead to instant popularity in Texas politics, but Joachin has overcome and become Vice Chairman of the Higher Education Committee and Democratic Floor Leader of the Texas House. I have said for some time that the far-right’s hold over Texas politics is living on borrowed time and young, dynamic leaders like Joachin Castro from the state’s fastest growing ethnic demographic (Latinos, mostly Mexican-Americans), are a major reason why the time is short for the continued far-right control over Texas politics.
Outside the legislature, Joachin raised his own money to start Trailblazers’ College Tour, which sends underprivileged high school students on college visits, exposing them to some of the nation’s best institutions of higher education, inside Texas and out, and giving these students the tools to realize that matriculation into such schools is not outside their grasp. He has created San Antonio’s largest literacy program, SA READS which has distributed over 200,000 books to schools and shelters throughout the city. He has a small private law firm with his twin brother and has taught law at St. Mary’s University and Trinity University, both in San Antonio.
Now, Joaquin is running for Congress in the Texas 20th District (most of San Antonio) and is well ahead. Barring something strange happening, he should win easily in November, bringing his clean energy, education, and other progressive concerns to the U.S. House–from Texas. I predict at least a U.S. Senate seat in Joaquin’s future.
Born 16 September 1974, one minute before younger brother, Joaquin, Julian is married to Erica Lira Castro, an elementary school teacher, and they have one daughter, Carine, born in March of 2009. Like his twin brother, Julian was raised on the West Side of San Antonio and educated in the public schools. He also graduated high school a year early and earned his B.A. with honors from Stanford University in 1996. He then matriculated at Harvard Law School and earned his J.D. in 2000. In 2001, at the age of 26, Julian became the youngest (at the time) elected City Councilmember in San Antonio’s history. He is on the board of the Family Services Association and has taught at St. Mary’s University, Trinity University, and the University of Texas–San Antonio. In 2005, he opened his private law office with his brother, Joachin. In 2009, Julian was elected Mayor of San Antonio at the age of 35. His reforms and work for economic growth have transformed San Antonio into one of the top 50 cities in the USA. (San Antonio is now the 7th largest city in the U.S. and has recovered from the Great Recession faster than the rest of the nation–and faster than Texas as a whole.)
Mayor Julian Castro has a passion for green energy: He used federal stimulus funds to help CPS, San Antonio’s utility company, to weatherize homes. Before Castro’s tenure as mayor, CPS was known for relying on outdated coal and nuclear plants. Now, they are retiring these plants slowly and are following the mayor’s New Energy Economy plan. In 2010, CPS pledged to get 20% of its energy from renewables by 2020 and is on track to easily surpass that goal. The mayor and CPS are bringing in new green energy plants, especially wind and solar and training people in installation. The mayor has led several green tech companies to move their headquarters to San Antonio, with pledges to create hundreds of local jobs each time. Julian Castro wants San Antonio to be the green energy center than Silicon Valley, CA is to software and Boston to biotech.
In a state infamous for climate change denial, Mayor Castro declared September 2011 to be “Climate Change Awareness Month.” He’s launched a bike-sharing and small-car sharing program to reduce gridlock and cut emissions in the city. He has won support by pushing the (true) line that the city’s growth is tied to making it more livable and more modern and that greener policies are a part of that.
His advocacy of high speed comuter rail in central Texas has met more opposition in the Texas Legislature and the governor’s office, but Castro is gaining support. He has also pushed for a strong water-conservation program in drought-prone Texas. San Antonio was leading the state in water conservation years before Castro took office, but Castro has redoubled efforts: Thanks to his efforts, San Antonio now has a water-recycling system and a water-storage facility and is building a de-salination plant.
Is any of this popular in Texas? Well, last year (2011), Julian Castro was reelected Mayor of San Antonio with a resounding 83% of the vote!
Will he become the first Mexican-American Governor of Texas? Will either of the Castro brothers become the first Latino President of the USA? I don’t know, but I think the odds are good. Texas will become the first state in the union with no ethnic majority. Whites will long remain the largest minority, but Latinos and African-Americans together will outnumber them and they are voting Democratic in large numbers. The Asian population, especially Vietnamese, is also growing in Texas. The Republican Party’s insistence on remaining the party of white people, with anti-immigration policies, will hasten its downfall. Red State Texas is quickly becoming Purple Texas and Blue Texas is not far behind. The Castro brothers will be a large part of that transformation.
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