Moses said to the people in his final charge "I put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life...Be strong and resolute..for the Lord will not forsake you" Deut. 30 and 31. Former US National Debate Champion and Ordained Rabbi tackles issues of Public Policy, Israel, Islamic Terrorism, Antisemitism, Jewish Wisdom and the Chicago Bears
Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, who will be giving the keynote address tonight, is, according to some, the next Obama. But while Obama’s radicalism may have escaped the notice of the DNC in 2004, Castro’s views are bit more transparent.
Indeed, he, along with his twin, Joaquin, currently running for Congress, learned their politics on their mother’s knee and in the streets of San Antonio. Their mother, Rosie helped found a radical, anti-white, socialist Chicano party called La Raza Unida (literally “The Race United”) that sought to create a separate country–Aztlan–in the Southwest.
Today she helps manage her sons’ political careers, after a storied career of her own as a community activist and a stint as San Antonio Housing Authority ombudsman.
Far from denouncing his mother’s controversial politics, Castro sees them as his inspiration. As a student at Stanford Castro penned an essay for Writing for Change: A Community Reader(1994) in which he praised his mother’s accomplishments and cited them as an inspiration for his own future political involvement.
“[My mother] sees political activism as an opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. Perhaps that is because of her outspoken nature or because Chicanos in the early 1970s (and, of course, for many years before) had no other option. To make themselves heard Chicanos needed the opportunity that the political system provided. In any event, my mother’s fervor for activism affected the first years of my life, as it touches it today.
Castro wrote fondly of those early days and basked in the slogans of the day. “‘Viva La Raza!’ ‘Black and Brown United!’ ‘Accept me for who I am–Chicano.’ These and many other powerful slogans rang in my ears like war cries.” These war cries, Castro believes, advanced the interests of their political community. He sees her rabble-rousing as the cause for Latino successes, not the individual successes of those hard-working men and women who persevered despite some wrinkles in the American meritocracy.
[My mother] insisted that things were changing because of political activism, participation in the system. Maria del Rosario Castro has never held a political office. Her name is seldom mentioned in a San Antonio newspaper. However, today, years later, I read the newspapers, and I see that more Valdezes are sitting on school boards, that a greater number of Garcias are now doctors, lawyers, engineers, and, of course, teachers. And I look around me and see a few other brown faces in the crowd at [Stanford]. I also see in me a product of my mother’s diligence and her friends’ hard work. Twenty years ago I would not have been here…. My opportunities are not the gift of the majority; they are the result of a lifetime of struggle and commitment by adetermined minority. My mother is one of these persons. And each year I realize more and more how much easier my life has been made by the toil of past generations. I wonder what form my service will take, since I am expected by those who know my mother to continue the family tradition. [Emphasis Castro’s]
Rosie named her first son, Julian, for his father whom she never married, and her second, who arrived a minute later, for the character in the 1967 Chicano anti-gringo movement poem, “I Am Joaquin.” She is particularly proud that they were born on Mexico’s Independence Day. And she was a fan of the Aztlan aspirations of La Raza Unida. Those aspirations were deeply radical. “As far as we got was simply to take over control in those [Texas] communities where we were the majority,” one of its founders, Jose Angel Gutierrez, told the Toronto paper. “We did think of carving out a geographic territory where we could have our own weight, and our own leverage could then be felt nation-wide.”
Removing all doubt, Gutierrez repeated himself often. “What we hoped to do back then was to create a nation within a nation,” he told the Denver Post in 2001. Gutierrez bemoaned the loss of that separatist vision among activists, but predicted that Latinos will “soon take over politically.” (“Brothers in Chicano Movement to Reunite,” Denver Post, August 16, 2001).
Gutierrez made clear his hatred for “the gringo” when he led the Mexican-American Youth Organization, the precursor to La Raza Unida. According to the Houston Chronicle, he “was denounced by many elected officials as militant and un-American.” And anti-American he was. “We have got to eliminate the gringo, and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to worst, we have got to kill him,” Gutierrez told a San Antonio audience in 1969. At around that time, Rosie Castro eagerly joined his cause, becoming the first chairwoman of the Bexar County Raza Unida Party. There’s no evidence of her distancing herself from Gutierrez’s comments, even today. Gutierrez even dedicated a chapter in one of his books to Ms. Castro.
While apologists for La Raza Unida now claim that the group has been dedicated to the “civil rights of Mexican-Americans and promoting a strong ‘Chicano’ identity,” as Zev Chafets of the New York Times puts it, its brand of populism and socialist radicalism was controversial among Mexican-Americans and Democrats who considered it too extreme. The party pushed racial redistricting, affirmative action, bilingual education, and Chicano studies.
One of La Raza’s most powerful leaders, Frank Shaffer-Corona, an at-large member of the Washington, D.C. school board, even visited communist Cuba for a conference on Yankee imperialism and conferred with Marxists in Mexico. He was prone to conspiracy theories, decrying the “pervasive influence of the Central Intelligence Agency on American politics and what he says is a conspiracy of the multinational corporations against all minorities and the people of Latin America,” in the words of the Washington Post. (“His Pitch: Populism, and Very Latino; Shaffer-Corona Unruffled After Trip to Cuba,” Washington Post, August 28, 1978). The radical organization’s second most successful candidate, Texas gubernatorial aspirant Ramsey Muñiz, remains in prison on drug charges. La Raza Unida members periodically call for him to be pardoned, saying without evidence that the corrupt Muñiz is a “political prisoner.”)
Carlos Pelayo, another founder of La Raza Unida, clung to communism even after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, telling a San Diego paper that “the desire of people for social justice will never end.” “If it doesn’t work [the Soviet Union’s] way, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work,” he said. “So we capitalists have 20 different cereals and Nike shoes. Over there [in the Soviet Union], they have free education, free medical care.” (“Fall of Communism Fails to Deter Local Communists,” San Diego Union Tribune, September 14, 1991)
Is Ms. Castro repentant in the slightest over her involvement with La Raza Unida? Not in the least. She sees the rise of her sons’ political fortune as the fulfillment of her promise–some say threat–in 1971 when she lost her bid for San Antonio city council: “We’ll be back.” “When Julian was installed, it was just such an incredible thing to be there because for years we [the Chicano activists and La Raza Unida] had been struggling to be there,” she told Texas Monthly in 2002. “There was so much hurt associated with being on the outside. And I don’t mean personal hurt, but a whole group of people [the activists] being on the outside–the educational, social, political, economic outside.” Now she has not just one, but two men on the inside–her sons.
In July of this year, she attended a reunion of the now-defunct party. Its promoters recalled her 1971 bid for the San Antonio city council and announced that her sons were the heirs of the party’s founders and thought. Indeed Irma Mireles, who after Rosie was the second chairwoman of the Bexar County Raza Unida Party, “sees results of the party’s work” in Mayor Julian Castro and her godson, Julian’s brother Joaquin, who is running in the 20th congressional district as a Democrat. Mireles and Ms. Castro continue to use the experience they got running the party to benefit the Castro brothers. Zev Chafets of the New York Times writes of the “barrio machine” that got both elected to office straight out of law school. He was elected to the city council in 2001 and was elected mayor in 2009 and 2011 after narrowly losing his first bid in 2005.
One of Julian’s first acts as mayor in 2009 was hanging a 1971 La Raza Unida city council campaign poster, featuring his mother, in his office. While it’s possible that Castro was hanging the poster in deference to his mother, it is unimaginable that a candidate who was the son of one of the leaders of a white supremacist party would be given similar latitude.
Far from distancing himself from his mother’s odious views, Castro cites them as an asset, though perhaps one he isn’t always ready to advertise. “She has never held political office, but has always been civically involved,” Castro told Time magazine. “Growing up, I learned to appreciate the value of the democratic process through her love for making a difference in the lives of others.” Chafets of the Times explains just what the Castro boys learned.
In their spare time they accompanied their mother to political events and strategy sessions, where they were exposed to her fiery style of radicalism … ; met the key figures in the Chicano political world; became practiced community organizers on political campaigns; and learned to make the system work for them.
Julian Castro’s keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention is sure to help grow his profile along with his campaign coffers. But in his decade in public office, he has racked up something that Obama lacked: a paper trail, which might make his political career beyond San Antonio short-lived. He pushed a divisive resolution that opposed Arizona’s immigration law, which two council members (including the first immigrant on the council) called a distraction. He’s pushed for a sales tax-funded expansion of the federal Head Start program, even though the evidence is pretty clear that Head Start doesn’t have much lasting impact. And he’s been a busybody, calling for a cell phone ban in school zones that would include all types of cell phones, even “hands-free” devices.
In standing up for affirmative action and bilingual education, the mayor evokes some of the demagogic language of La Raza Unida. “Make no mistake, Mitt Romney would be the most extreme nominee the Republican Party has ever had on immigration,” the national co-chairman of Obama for America breathlessly told reporters on a teleconference call with reporters arranged by the Obama campaign. He’s turned San Antonio into a sanctuary city, meaning its police aren’t allowed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and attacked Senator
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
’s proposed alternative to amnesty for illegal immigrant children as “cotton candy politics.” He considers efforts to restrict illegal immigration to be anti-immigrant and even anti-Hispanic.
Mayor Castro calls voter I.D. laws “voter suppression,” repeating the common left-wing canard that Hispanics, who have marginally higher rates of lacking an I.D., won’t be able to cast ballots. The possibility of a smaller Hispanic turnout also has Julian and Joaquin upset because it might delay their paths to statewide office.
The choice of the left-wing mayor as keynoter at the party’s convention is perhaps as much psychological warfare as anything else, not only part of a longer-range plan to mess with Texas’s electoral math but also an immediate attempt to remind those ‘racist’ Republicans that the future is here. Until that day comes, National Public Radio can gush that it hopes America will one day look like San Antonio–and the Castro brothers can wait, anxious to do what La Raza Unida’s founder told all young Hispanic men to do in 2003: “get a job, get an education, and go paint the White House brown as soon as you can.”