Raul Castro, former governor, died Friday in San Diego, where he was in hospice care. Castro was Arizona’s only Hispanic governor and an American ambassador to three countries, according to the Economic Times. He was 98.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Castro “lived a full life of exemplary service to Arizona and its people.”
“He was an honorable public servant, a history-maker, a beloved family man and a strong friend and fighter for Arizona.”
Raul Castro was a successful governor and a self-made man, the embodiment of the American dream. He overcame poverty and discrimination to graduate from college and launch a successful career in politics and diplomacy.
In 2010, he told The Associated Press that he was proud of the land of opportunity.
“America is the land of opportunity … Here, one can accomplish whatever they want to be. But you’ve got to work for it.”
Growing up on the U.S.-Mexico border near Douglas, Arizona, Castro saw discrimination around him. He said he wondered why the Hispanics were laborers and none delivered the mail or worked in offices, according to San Francisco Gate.
It didn’t seem right that the Hispanic children had to walk miles to school every day while the white kids would wave from a passing school bus, he said.
He set out to beat the odds. When he couldn’t get a job as a teacher — schools didn’t hire educators of Mexican descent back then — he became a drifter for a while, working as a farm hand and boxing here and there.
He landed a job with the U.S. Consulate in the border city of Agua Prieta, Mexico. After five years, a senior official told him he was doing a great job but had no future in the foreign service — he had a Hispanic name and no Ivy League education. Castro quit and moved to Tucson.
A law school dean at the University of Arizona told Castro he wouldn’t be accepted because Castro couldn’t afford to quit a job teaching Spanish. Besides, the dean said, Hispanic students didn’t do well in law school.
Undeterred, Castro went to the university president, who convinced the dean to give Castro an opportunity to prove himself. He excelled and went on to be elected the first Hispanic county attorney and later the first Hispanic judge in Pima County Superior Court.
Raul was born in Mexico, moving to Douglas as a child, and through great perseverance, he worked his way through school, first attending Northern Arizona University (then called Arizona State Teachers’ College) and then the University of Arizona School of Law. Castro’s early career was marked by his legal skills, serving first as Pima County Attorney and then as a judge on the Pima County Superior Court, notes Town Hall.
Raul Castro was elected Governor by winning in a surprise victory on his second try, defeating Republican Russ Williams and winning office as a proud Arizona Democrat. As Governor, Castro had broken down a barrier for Arizona’s Latinos, and he employed as an advisor a future Arizona Latino leader, future Congressman Ed Pastor.