Julián Castro – Is He ‘Latino Enough’ Even Though He Isn’t Fluent in Spanish?
The last couple of days there has been a buzz surrounding Julián Castro. The young mayor from San Antonio, Texas spoke on behalf of our President and U.S. DREAMers during this week’s Democratic National Convention and the chatter since has been mostly good. Many have said that he would be an excellent candidate for the 2016 election, that they would be happy to see him represent Latinos as president one day and that his speech – especially his inclusion of his mother’s own struggle – was heartwarming and indicative of the Latino experience in the U.S.
Not unlike all public figures though, Castro has his critics. His name alone has perked ears from mainstream, but now some Latinos have jumped into the convo and called him out as a ‘fake’. Not surprising, but definitely disappointing.
For many bicultural Latinos, it’s not a new debate…and this is especially true for South Texans.
If you grew up in South Texas, or have ever lived there…you know what I’m talking about. There’s a stigma near the border…especially if you’re Mexican. There is a stigma surrounding Spanish speakers. There is also a constant struggle in border towns and nearby counties to make communities English proficient. And while some cities and states nationwide have made bilingual studies a top priority, this perspective still isn’t widely accepted.
My point is, there are many factors that weigh on Latinos who either decide to forgo Spanish language or don’t have access to resources for Spanish fluency. Not everyone feels they have the option to retain Spanish language and in this country, bilingualism still hasn’t been justified as an acceptable ‘right’ to Latinos who want to keep their heritage alive. Who are we to judge how Latino someone is or how much pride they have in their heritage based on their Spanish fluency?
Don’t get me wrong, Spanish language is a common connection between many Latinos and it’s a skill that I am desperately trying to give to my daughter, but it isn’t a qualifier as to whether or not she is a “real” Latina. Believing so is as ignorant as saying that color should be an indicator. If a Spanish-fluent Latino is light-skinned and blonde or has kinky hair and deep brown skin – are they also not “real” Latinos…because they don’t “look” Latino enough??
Where does it end? Why can’t the line be blurred? Why must it be defined? Should the definition really be this narrow and discriminatory?