Rosie Castro

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Rosie Castro


Maria del Rosario "Rosie" Castro is a Texas activist and the mother of twins Julian Castro and Joaquin Castro.

She is a Palo Alto College administrator, and the father of her children Jesse Guzman, a retired high school math teacher.[1]

Background

Castro was born in 1947 to a single mother, Victoria Castro, who worked as a “maid, a cook and a babysitter,” Julián said.

At what was then Our Lady of the Lake College, Rosie wanted to establish a chapter of the Young Democrats, but college rules required that there be a chapter of Young Republicans as well. The minimum size was 10 students each. So she organized — for both groups.

“We got them the bare minimum,” she said. “We had quite a few more for the Young Democrats.”

In college, her political involvement grew.

“What I have always understood is that if you want to make a difference in this country ... You elect representatives who will create the policy that you feel needs to happen,” she said. Her college mentor, Margaret Kramer, introduced Rosie to progressive Democratic politicians, including Henry B. Gonzalez, Pete Torres, Albert Pena, Jr. and Joe Bernal. On Fridays, the politicians and other factions — labor leaders, such as Henry “The Fox” Munoz — would gather at Karam's restaurant.

“It was heady stuff. It was an incredible learning (experience) for me,” Rosie said.

Henry Munoz III, son of “The Fox” and board chairman of VIA Metropolitan Transit, recalls his parents discussing Rosie as she was rising in the Chicano movement.

It was a “generational moment that wasn't completely smooth, but she stood out and was completely respected and strong,” Munoz said.[2]

Politics

Rosie Castro set out to bring equal representation to the council. She and Guzman helped run a slate of candidates in 1969 backed by the Committee for Barrio Betterment. Two years later, in '71, she ran on a four-candidate slate backed by the committee and La Raza. Their campaign poster hangs in Mayor Castro's City Hall office.

Raza Unida Party candidates Feb. 20, 1971, William Benavides, Gloria Cabrerra, Rosie Castro, Mario Compean

David Montejano, a University of California-Berkeley ethnic studies professor who grew up on the West Side and knew Rosie, said the activists had realized organizing high school students and picketing wasn't enough. They needed to take the fight to City Hall and beyond. He's chronicled the era in a book called “Quixote's Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981.”

Women played a significant role in that period generally — and the '69 race, he said. Two years later, they demanded to run. “They were the first Chicanas, as far as I know, to run for City Council election,” Montejano said.

After the council losses in '69 and '71, Rosie and others pivoted to La Raza and finding candidates to run for statewide offices. She served as the party's director in Bexar County.[3]

Chicano movement

The Chicano movement was born in the early 1960s, while Rosie attended the Catholic Little Flower High School.

San Antonio was for Latinos what Atlanta, Selma and Birmingham were for blacks, said Char Miller, a former Trinity University urban studies professor who's now director of the environmental analysis program at Pomona College in California.

Rosie Castro, bottom right

“Like Atlanta, it had a lot of very engaged folks who understood that their long-term oppression in San Antonio — economic, educational, class and ethnicity — could only be broken if they were the active agents of change,” he said. “So what we're looking at is the civil rights movement for the Hispanic population of the United States, largely moving out of San Antonio.”

Rosie did more than just stand witness to the plight.

“I admire and respect Rosie for the activist positions she took at a time when things needed to be said, and positions needed to be taken because the levels of discrimination and injustice and unfairness were so blatant,” said former Mayor Henry Cisneros, a childhood classmate of hers. “One could go through the history of the West Side ... it's just case after case of gross unfairness that could only be addressed by people standing up.”[4]

Rosie and Jesse

Rosie got to know the local politicos and other activists, including Jesse Guzman, as the young Democrats worked campaigns and immersed themselves in politics. “Really, that's where I cut my teeth on how to do door-to-door block walking,” she said. “They used to call us the bumper sticker queens.”

Seven years older than Rosie, Jesse also had grown up on the West Side. And like her, he remembers abhorrent conditions there. He had to walk about 10 blocks to the bus stop and struggled to keep his ROTC uniform clean because “the street was like soup, maybe an inch deep in mud,” he said.

Rosie Castro advocated for better education, for voter registration, for political representation and for better city services on the West Side. Jesse Guzman was the head of Colegio Jacinto Treviño, a Chicano college in San Antonio and in the Rio Grande Valley. He also was active in the Committee For Barrio Betterment and locally helped manage Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA.

Their paths crossed as both organized in the community.

“We were soul mates in a lot of ways because we were both in the movement,” Rosie said. “We had a lot in common — the struggles of our people, the idea of self-determination.”

Jesse already was married with five children when he moved in with Rosie and her mother before the twins were born. Never married, the two separated when the boys were 8. Their sons, now 38, have their mother's last name.[5]

Raza Unida Party

Rosie Castro, was a member of the Raza Unida Party (RUP), a political party seeking to elect Latino and Latina candidates to office.[6]

Empowered by an era of social change, she joined a then-“radical” political movement. “We believed in trying to make a difference by getting involved politically,” Castro, said of her work with La Raza Unida, a third political party born of racial tensions in 1970s Southwest Texas, and of her City Council bid with a slate of candidates backed by the Committee for Barrio Betterment. She registered voters, identified candidates, block walked, ran campaigns and served as La Raza's Bexar County chairwoman.[7]

"Free Angela Davis"

Rev. Claude Black was very active over the years, in San Antonio, helping to radicalize many. His influence helped to bring together a multi-ethnic coalition of individuals attempting to free black activist Angela Davis, including executing a local petition campaign signed by black State Representative G.J. Sutton, and local activists Franklin "Tortillas" Garcia, Rosie Castro, Albert Pena, Jr., John Inman, and others.[8]

The latter half of the Rev. Claude Black's FBI file is focused intently on a local effort in support of the campaign to free Angela Davis, the California activist and college professor who was jailed for her role in a courthouse shooting, though she later was acquitted of all charges.

Black proclaimed her innocence at a 1971 rally at Villita Assembly Building. Rosie Castro, the mother of Mayor Julian Castro and state Rep. Joaquin Castro, attended that meeting, too.

At an earlier gathering of the San Antonio Committee to Free Angela Davis, according to the FBI informant's notes, Rosie Castro "was observed buying two small posters of Angela Davis for 50 cents each, which were mentioned by Rosie Castro as having been printed in Cuba."

Later, Black made his church available for one of the committee's meetings, though he didn't stay.[9]

People’s World, June 12, 1971, covered the meeting “!,500 in San Antonio at Free Angela meeting."

“San Antonio, Texas—The first mass rally and dance for Angela Davis in the Southwest was a smashing success here May 23 as some 1,500 persons attended.

David Poindexter, main speaker of the evening, termed the rally and dance the most successful he had yet seen.

“First speaker for the evening, Rev. C. W. Black, Jr., pastor of the Mt Zion First Baptist Church, was followed by Franklin Garcia, international representative of the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen’s Union.

“Seated on the platform were Carlos Richardson, Texas co-ordinator of Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee and chairman of the San Antonio Committee to Free Angela Davis; Raul Rodriguez, publisher of Chicano Times, and Rosie Castro, both candidates for City Council; G.J. Sutton and John Inman, black community leaders; John Stanford, Communist party spokesman; Mario Cantu, Chicano businessman; Mrs Manuela Sager, and David Plylar.

“Poindexter dealt with the August 7 shoot-out at the Marin County Courthouse, used as the excuse for Angela Davis’ subsequent imprisonment. He said Davis ‘didn’t know about Jonathan Jackson’s attempt; didn’t give Jonathan any guns; and had she known, she would have stopped Jonathan. Angela knew that the only defense we have is organizing people.’

Chicano Activists Reunion

Rosie Castro was part of the ’60s generation. In 1989 activists held a national Chicano Activists Reunion in San Antonio, which was attended by iconic leaders such as Reies Lopez Tijerina, Jose Angel Gutierrez, and Rudy Acuna. Women were also present. Emma Tenayuca, a San Antonio labor movement and 1930s icon, was there. Other less-well-known women were there as well, and a tribute to women was part of the festivities.

Cynthia E. Orozco was there, too, as a young graduate student recording what these historic folks had to say. One of the women who spoke at the 1989 gathering was Rosie Castro.[10]

CineFestival 2011

The theme of San Antonio’s GCAC CineFestival 2011 was Aztaln in Focus: Roots, Raza, and Revolution which captures the spirit of resistance reflected many of these amazing films brought into the festival.

A few attendees at event included: Jesse Borrego - Actor/Host, Elai Morales, Actor/ Emma Tenayuca Award recipient, Mayor Julian Castro – State Rep. Joaquin Castro, mother, Rosie CastroRita Verreros, CBS Survivor/Actress, Attorneys Frank Herrera & son, Jorge Herrera.[11]

TOP connections

Texas Organizing Project, November 6, 2014.

Rosiecastrollll.JPG

TOP members continue to connect with political figures like state Rep. Mike Villarreal and Rosie Castro. We're elevating voices from San Antonio's Westside and organizing to improve our communities. — with Michael Villarreal.

December 2016 event

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Joaquin Castro with Texas Organizing Project's Michelle Tremillo and Rosie Castro.

References