Former mayor’s mother breaks barriers, journalist says.

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Cecilia Ballí, author and contributor to The New York Times and Texas Monthly, speaks at the opening ceremony for Women’s History Month themed “Nevertheless She Persisted” March 8 in the Fiesta Room of Loftin. Lorena Torres Romero

Activist Rosie Castro instilled an interest in politics in her twin sons.

By Deandra Gonzalez

Journalist and anthropologist Cecilia Ballí shared the story of three Hispanic women who broke barriers in the opening ceremony of Women’s History Month March 8 in the Fiesta Room of Loftin Student Center.

They are Rosie Castro, mother of former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Concepcion “Connie” Gonzales, who dug into her family history to find out if her family owned South Padre Island; and Irma Monreal, who questioned the Mexican government after her daughter was found dead along with seven other women.

“It was a male world,” Ballí said of politics and other areas of public life when Castro entered politics.

She spoke to an audience of about 30.

In 1971 Castro ran for San Antonio City Council on a slate called the Committee for Barrio Betterment. The committee had only two women including Castro.

Ballí said when Castro was a little girl she helped clean houses with her mom, Victoria Castro. She asked why there were better lifestyles.

“She was always kind of questioning why is the world is unequal,” Ballí said. “She was always questioning this idea of inclusion.”

Castro came in second in the race because the city did not yet have single-member districts, Ballí said.

“If the city had single-member districts, they would have won,” Ballí said. “It was hard for Mexican-Americans to get on the City Council for that reason.”

Single-member districts ensure the person representing the voter knows the needs of the neighborhood, she said.

Ballí said that six years later in 1977, the city changed to single-member districts, which opened a door for Mexican-Americans to be elected in office.

Ballí read a quote from Castro: “Things just weren’t changing. We understood politically that you have to be in the game. You have to run people. You have to get people to vote for them; otherwise, you’re never at the table. If there’s no representative, no one cares about what your needs are.”

Castro’s twin sons shared her interest in politics.

Julian Castro served as a San Antonio councilman 2001-05. He ran for mayor of San Antonio in 2005 but lost. He ran again and won in 2009 and in 2011, where he was re-elected with 82 percent of the vote.

Joaquin Castro served five terms as state representative of District 125 2003-13. In 2012, Castro was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Texas’ 20th Congressional District.

Ballí said people often hear of the Castro brothers but don’t know the full story behind their mother, who was a part of a bigger community of Mexican-Americans.

Castro is retired from Palo Alto College and last served as the interim dean of student success.

Ballí’s goal is to tell stories of women’s struggles that haven’t been told.

“What I focused on was to have Chicanos, and Latinos, Mexican-Americans, the Tejanos, be a part of the main stream narrative in Texas,” she said.


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