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San Antonio Mayor visits Convención Hispana 2013

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro made a return visit to Ohio, his second trip in just a few months. This time it was for nonpolitical purposes in Cleveland—delivering the keynote address about education at the triennial Convención Hispana 2013, held Sat., Oct. 19, 2013 on the St. Ignatius High School campus. The Hispanic Roundtable, which sponsors the convention, estimated the day-long event drew nearly 3,000 people.

José Feliciano with Julián Castro

The 39-year-old Mexican-American mayor is a much sought-after speaker following his delivery of the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the first Latino to do so. Castro also spoke in March in Columbus, addressing the Ohio Democratic Party’s Legacy Dinner.

Castro stated there are other issues besides immigration reform “that rally the Hispanic community” together, such as investing in public education and healthcare reform, citing that Latinos “have the highest rate of the uninsured in the United States.”

“These are issues that are aspirational, that have to do with the pursuit of the American Dream,” he said. “Those have typically rallied the Hispanic community, regardless of the national origin of the group.”

Castro spoke of educational improvement efforts he has spearhead as San Antonio mayor, “acting proactively,” because Texas “is not one of the states at the top of per-pupil spending. San Antonio voters last November approved an eighth-of-a-cent tax increase to fund a pre-kindergarten program aimed at improving the school readiness of 22,400 four-year-olds over the next eight years.

“Because of Pre-K for SA, I believe San Antonio will have the closest thing to universal pre-K in Texas, as well as the best-educated and most-prepared four-year-olds in the entire state,” he said.

Castro spoke of other educational improvements in his hometown, as part of a larger effort known as SA 2020, an effort begun in 2010, which identified eleven key areas for community leaders to work on. Education was—and still is—a key component of that work, he explained. High school dropout rates have fallen “several points,” college matriculation “by several points,” and teen pregnancy rates fell “by more than 25 percent over the last four years,” he said. At one point, San Antonio led the nation in births among girls aged 15-19, as well as “repeat births” in that same age group.

“By working together to reduce that teen pregnancy rate and investing in education, we’re seeing an improvement in educational achievement,” said the San Antonio mayor. “There are more of them choosing to stay in school, more young folks graduating, and more of them enrolling in college. I’m very proud of that.”


Castro touted a program he helped start as mayor, which is geared to increase high school graduation rates and college attendance.  Cafecollege is a one-stop center for students and parents to receive free financial aid and admissions advice, free ACT and SAT prep courses, and other college-related guidance. It also has a truancy-intervention program. He stated part of the reason was that San Antonio high schools have a student to guidance counselor ratio of 420 to one. More than 25,000 students have used the service in just the last three years.

“We wanted to make sure that young folks could avail themselves of all the information and the resources you need to make a smart decision of going to college and how to afford it,” he said. “So many folks write themselves out of the game of college because they think they can’t get in or their family won’t be able to afford it. We wanted to change that.”

Immigration Reform

The San Antonio mayor drew a comparison between the recent 16-day government shutdown and stalled vote on immigration reform, blaming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and stated “he catered to the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.” He noted Latinos will be watching what develops closely heading into the 2014 elections, especially after both parties realized what a powerful voting bloc Latinos represent.

“My hope is now that the Senate has acted and President Obama is making a push for full immigration reform, that the House Republicans will allow a vote,” he said. “The reason the (government) shutdown ended is because Speaker Boehner finally agreed…to allow a simple vote.

“If Speaker Boehner would just allow a simple vote on comprehensive immigration reform, I’m confident that at least 18 Republicans in the House would vote for it, it would get a majority overall, and it would pass.

“If comprehensive immigration reform fails, America will understand that House Republicans and specifically House Speaker Boehner, made it fail.”

Castro commented on Cleveland’s effort to establish “a place” for Latinos to live and congregate, comparing it to two sections of San Antonio that have developed over the past few decades. That Texas city is now 60 percent Latino.

“It’s important, I think, in communities that are as diverse as Cleveland, and with a growing Hispanic community, for folks within the community to have a place that they can express pride in—but a place where Clevelanders, no matter what their background, can go and experience the wonderful culture of the Latino community in a friendly way,” he said. “It’s a way for communities to come together positively.”

Castro’s mother Rosie served as a leader of the La Raza Unida movement, which sought to defend the civil rights of Mexican-Americans in Texas in the 1970s. Organizers of the group believed the effort would help boost the Chicano movement in Texas and become more influential in politics. He was asked to compare the San Antonio of his mother’s time versus how it exists now.

“There’s no question that my generation has been blessed with tremendous opportunity,” he said. “In my mother’s generation: higher dropout rates, I think it was more challenging socially. There were more headwinds to success if your color of skin was brown.

“In my generation, the glass is more than half full—and that’s due to the hard work of a lot of folks in the U.S. of different backgrounds to make our country a place where more folks can achieve the American dream. I’m pretty proud of that.

“My brother Joaquin and I are examples of that. We’ve been able to work hard and take advantage of those opportunities.”

Castro brought that question back to what the Hispanic Roundtable is trying to accomplish for young Latinos in northern Ohio, trying to keep his visit on a positive note.

“That’s why this Convención is so important. We want our young people to realize the opportunities that they have in the year 2013 to work hard and to take advantage of those opportunities,” he said. “There has been tremendous progress since then.”

Castro’s twin brother Joaquin is a now member of US Congress, and admits “even though I see him less than I ever have in my life, the two communicate regularly so the San Antonio mayor can keep abreast of what’s happening on Capitol Hill. Castro admitted his brother “is frustrated, like Americans have been frustrated” by the gridlock that has gripped Washington DC politics.

Castro complimented the Cleveland-area efforts of the Hispanic Roundtable during remarks he made to the media prior to speaking at the convention.

“It’s important work that is happening here in Cleveland—communities like this one that are seeking to boost educational achievement, to create entrepreneurialism, to boost small business ownership, and to ensure that the newest wave of immigrants and particularly the Hispanic community, make a tremendous impact and are a positive asset,” he said.

The Hispanic Roundtable hosts Convención Hispana once every three years, “as a catalyst for advancing education, economic development, and empowerment,” explained José C. Feliciano, Sr., a Cleveland lawyer and chairman of the all-volunteer organization.

Then-Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals Judge Keila Cosme of Toledo served as the keynote speaker at the last Convención Hispana held in 2010. Prior to that, former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros.

Castro was first elected mayor of San Antonio in 2009 at the age of 34. He easily won re-election two years later. His political career started when he was elected as the youngest city councilman in San Antonio’s history in 2001 at age 26.

Castro served as a co-chairman of President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. He has received national attention and recognition for his focus on raising the bar of his city’s economy and education.

As a result of those achievements, many political observers consider him a rising star in the Democratic Party. Some describe him as “the Latino Obama,” because of the belief he has the potential to become the first Latino president of the United States.

“There is a Hispanic president who is alive today. We just don’t know who he or she is,” said Feliciano, attempting to remove any hint of politics from the event, much like Castro did in his remarks.

However, the San Antonio mayor was treated like a political rock star by the convention crowd. It took him at least an hour to leave the St. Ignatius gym where he delivered the keynote address so he could get to the airport.

“We live in a world in which the United States is competing in a 21st-century global economy where brain power is the new currency of success,” Castro told the crowd.

Castro stressed his own backstory during that speech as an example of how education and aspiration can help young Latinos can achieve their dreams. He spoke of his mother and grandmother, who came from México at age six and worked as a maid and other menial jobs so his family could have a better life. Both Castro and his twin brother went on to graduate from Stanford University and Harvard Law School after being raised by a single mother.

The convention is designed to identify priorities in the Latino community of Northeast Ohio—and for that matter, the Midwest— and to marshal resources to address them.

More than 100 booths dotted the high school gymnasium, adjacent to the convention floor, which offered a job fair for bilingual Latinos; the event also offered an immigration debate between state representatives Bill Patmon (D-10) and Matt Lynch (R-Bainbridge Township); “life workshops” that dealt with social media skills, the Affordable Care Act, and immigrant rights; and high school/college forums for Latino youth; and presentations of essay contest winners (by Victor Ruiz, executive director of Esperanza, Inc.).

Convención Hispana 2013 committee co-chairs included: Jorge Gatica and Victor Ruiz (Education/Educación), Jasmin Santana and Jessica Cartagena (Health/Salud), Ivelisse Roig and Magda Gómez (Empowerment/Empoderamiento), José C. Feliciano Sr. and Richard Herman (Immigration/Inmigración), and Ingrid Angel and Ramonita Vargas (Workforce and Economic Development/Fuerza Laboral y Desarrollo Económico).

On the Internet:  http://www.cafecollege.org/home

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson

Magda Gomez



Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/22/13 20:56:44 -0700.




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