In a few weeks, Julian Castro will be basking in the national spotlight as the Democratic National Convention’s keynote speaker.
The 37-year-old San Antonio mayor is already seen as a young- up-and-comer in Democratic politics. But while he is one of the nation’s more prominent Hispanic politicians – and the leader of a mostly Latino city — his Spanish apparently wasn’t so great.
Paradoxically, Julián Castro’s appeal to fellow Hispanic voters may be limited by his own assimilation. Although he pronounces his name “HOO-lee-un,” he doesn’t really speak Spanish — a fact he isn’t eager to advertise…. A lack of Spanish fluency isn’t unusual in San Antonio, especially among Castro’s generation, but in the immigrant barrios of Houston and the colonias south of Interstate 10 down to the border, Spanish is the first and often only language. A Mexican-American with statewide political aspirations needs to be able to do more than pronounce his name correctly. Early in his administration, Castro assigned his chief of staff, Robbie Greenblum — a Jewish lawyer from the border town of Laredo whose own Spanish is impeccable — to discreetly find him a tutor. Rosie Castro’s son is now being taught Spanish by a woman named Marta Bronstein. Greenblum met her in shul.
Last year, he visited Israel, where he explained the growth of Hispanic political clout on Israeli television:
Earlier this year, he spoke about his visit at an AIPAC lunch in San Antonio: