Julian Castro: Echoes of Barack Obama surround rising Latino star


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The Independent US

The Democrats made a flamboyant pitch for the Latino vote last night, granting airtime to a little-known Mayor from Texas who is being optimistically touted as a future contender for the presidency.

Julian Castro, the 37-year-old Mayor of San Antonio, America’s seventh-largest city, became the first Hispanic politician to deliver the keynote speech at a Democratic Convention. It was effectively his introduction to the national stage.

The last young up-and-comer to fill that speaking slot was Barack Obama, then a low-profile candidate for the US Senate. His barnstorming speech, which coined the phrase “audacity of hope”, lit the fire that would eventually propel him to the White House.

Mr Castro has much in common with Mr Obama. He was raised by a single mother, in a working-class neighbourhood of San Antonio, and became a top student at Harvard Law School. After establishing a successful law practice, he entered into local politics in 2001. So began a meteoric rise.

"My family's story isn't special. What's special is the America that makes our story possible,” read pre-released excerpts of his address, which was expected to explain how his grandmother, Victoria, came to the US almost a century ago as a penniless orphan.

"Ours is a nation like no other. A place where great journeys can be made in a single generation...no matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward."

Married, with a young daughter, Mr Castro was elected Mayor in 2009, with 56 per cent of the vote. In 2011, he increased his majority to 83 per cent. He was introduced last night by his identical twin brother, Joaquin, who will contest a congressional seat in November.

Jim Messina, Mr Obama’s campaign manager, predicted his appearance would be: “one of those moments that, 10 years from now, you’re going to say, ‘I was there’.”

Earlier, delegates heard from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, another key figure in Latino politics. He praised Mr Obama, who in June announced major immigration reforms. The President won 61 per cent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, and hopes to increase his share of a demographic crucial to such swing states as Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida.