By Nancy Montoya
The Douglas border crossing was renamed Wednesday to the Raúl H. Castro Port of Entry.
Renaming a U.S. port of entry is a big deal. It took an act of Congress and now supporters can celebrate a permanent tribute to Arizona’s first and only Mexican American Governor.
Born in Cananea, Mexico, Castro was 4-years-old when his parents crossed the border from Mexico into the United States. That was in 1918.
Now that very border crossing in Douglas, Ariz. is renamed to honor the child of immigrants who would grow up to become one of the most influential Mexican Americans of his generation.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva introduced the bill to rename the Douglas port of entry to honor and remember the former governor.
“His story is one worth sharing and by designating the Douglas port of entry as the Raúl H. Castro Port of Entry, we will ensure the story continues to be memorialize and told,” Grijalva told the House floor.
Raúl Hector Castro was not supposed to have had an extraordinary life. He was one of 12 children born into poverty and living in a border town near Douglas. It was the the mid 1920’s and for many, working in the fields or the mines was what the future had in store. Castro wanted more.
“I remember asking my mother one day - I said Mother, what shall I be? Cause all my brothers were working in the copper mines dirty and sweaty – I thought to myself, is this my life? My future? “ the former governor told AZPM.
Castro remembers his mother said that he could be whatever he wanted to be. Standing in his way was not just poverty and lack of opportunities – there was blatant discrimination and racism.
He remembered one particular incident involving a teacher, he said, “The bell rang for recess and one teacher said to another teacher, 'these Mexican kids are so dumb, you can’t teach them anything.' I heard it. It bothered me. It annoyed me. And to myself I said, 'Lady – one of these days I’m going to take your job.' I did later become a school teacher.”
For the young Castro – adversity was the fuel that motivated him. A football scholarship led to a college degree, then to a law degree from the University of Arizona. He was elected Pima County Attorney – then became a judge. Eventually he would serve as Ambassador to three Latin American countries. In 1974, he returned to Arizona and was elected governor.
“I can think of no more fitting a tribute for a man who served as a role model and a bridge to a generation of young Hispanics looking to enter public life," Rep. Martha McSally told her colleagues on the floor of the House of Representatives.