Ari­zona gover­nor and U.S. am­bas­sador

RAUL CAS­TRO, 1916 - 2015

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - news.obits@la­times.com

Raul Hec­tor Cas­tro, Ari­zona’s only Latino gover­nor and an Amer­i­can am­bas­sador to three coun­tries, died Fri­day. He was 98.

Fam­ily spokesman James Garcia said Cas­tro died in his sleep in San Diego, where he was in hospice care.

Cas­tro was 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.

“Amer­ica is the land of op­por­tu­nity,” Cas­tro told the As­so­ci­ated Press in 2010. “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, Ariz., Cas­tro saw dis­crim­i­na­tion around him. He said he won­dered why the Lati­nos were la­bor­ers and none de­liv­ered the mail or worked in of­fices.

It didn’t seem right that the Latino 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 Latino 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, Latino stu­dents didn’t do well in law school.

Un­de­terred, Cas­tro went to the uni­ver­sity pres­i­dent, who per­suaded the dean to give Cas­tro an op­por­tu­nity to prove him­self. He ex­celled and went on to be elected the first Latino county at­tor­ney and later the first Latino judge in Pima County Su­pe­rior Court.

Born June 12, 1916, in Cananea, Mex­ico, some 50 miles south of the Ari­zona bor­der, Cas­tro grew up in Ari­zona and grad­u­ated from Dou­glas High School. He was the sec­ond-youngest in a fam­ily with 12 chil­dren — 11 boys and one girl. His fa­ther was a union leader forced out of Mex­ico for or­ga­niz­ing a strike at the mine in Cananea. His fa­ther died when Cas­tro was 12, and his mother be­came a mid­wife to feed the fam­ily. She de­liv­ered ba­bies for the Mex­i­can fam­i­lies around Dou­glas in ex­change for flour, corn, beans and other sta­ples.

Ed­u­ca­tion was the best way out, Cas­tro determined.

He went on to serve as U.S. am­bas­sador to three Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries un­der three U.S. pres­i­dents. Lyn­don John­son sent him to El Sal­vador, where Cas­tro be­came known as “Yan­kee Cas­tro” to dif­fer­en­ti­ate him from the other Raul Cas­tro — the brother of Cuban dic­ta­tor Fidel Cas­tro.

John­son later sent him to Bo­livia, and he stayed for a short time un­der Pres­i­dent Nixon be­fore re­turn­ing to Ari­zona and mak­ing the first of two bids for gover­nor.

His statewide races were two of the clos­est gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tions in state his­tory. He lost to Repub­li­can Jack Wil­liams in 1970 by 1.5 per­cent­age points.

He fared bet­ter four years later as the Repub­li­can Party was em­broiled in the Water­gate cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Cas­tro de­feated Repub­li­can Russ Wil­liams by less than 1 per­cent­age point three months af­ter Nixon re­signed in con­tro­versy.

As an am­bas­sador and judge, Cas­tro was used to hav­ing un­ques­tioned author­ity; he strug­gled to ad­just to the checks and bal­ances im­posed on a gover­nor, said Al­fredo Gu­tier­rez, a Demo­crat and leg­isla­tive leader while Cas­tro was gover­nor.

“It was a very dif­fi­cult be­gin­ning for him,” Gu­tier­rez said. “It was quite an ad­just­ment.”

Cas­tro was gover­nor for 2 1 ⁄2 years be­fore resigning when Pres­i­dent Carter ap­pointed him am­bas­sador to Ar­gentina.

He told the As­so­ci­ated Press he was proud of his work mo­ti­vat­ing Lati­nos to vote, many of them for the first time.

Cas­tro, who spent his last years living in No­gales, Ariz., is sur­vived by his wife, Pat Cas­tro, and daugh­ters Mary Pat James and Beth Cas­tro.

Ed Honda As­so­ci­ated Press

EM­BOD­I­MENT OF THE AMER­I­CAN DREAM Cas­tro, Ari­zona’s only Latino gover­nor and a for­mer U.S. en­voy to El Sal­vador,

Bo­livia and Ar­gentina, speaks at a 2006 news con­fer­ence in Bis­bee, Ariz.

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