A congressman spoke about his own upbringing and gave advice to students on becoming politically active at a webinar hosted by the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute on Wednesday.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas and a member of the congressional Hispanic caucus committee, discussed how events in his life led him to his current position in Congress and gave life advice to students, including some members of the Latino community. Arturo Sotomayor, an associate professor of international affairs, moderated the webinar, which was the first installment of the Diálogos Hispanos Speakers’ Series hosted by the institute.
Here are the highlights in case you missed it:
Castro said his grandmother and her sister were orphaned during the time of the Mexican Revolution and later migrated to the United States, where they saw how members of the Latino community were treated at that time.
“When my grandmother first came to Texas, there were still signs that said no dogs, no negros, no Mexicans,” Castro said.
He said his family was “very active” in politics and his mother became involved in “grassroots” politics. Castro said his impetus for getting involved in government was wanting Latinos to “enjoy the infrastructure of opportunity” in the United States.
“If the government works right, it can actually create opportunity in the lives of people and the lives of Latinos,” he said.
COVID-19’s impact on the Latino community
Castro said Latinos are four times more likely to contract COVID-19, two times more likely to be hospitalized from the virus and 1.55 to 2 times more likely to die from it. He added that his stepmother died from the virus in July, about the same time that his father contracted the virus, but he said his story was only “one of the 205,000 stories.”
“We have been many of the essential workers throughout this pandemic,” Castro said.
He added that the best way to help migrant families during the pandemic is to get involved with different on-campus organizations dedicated to providing assistance.
Media portrayals of Latinos
Castro said the media is the main industry that creates a narrative of and defines the image of the Latino community, but “dangerous portrayals” create a “dangerous nexus” of stereotypes about the community being affirmed.
“What I have come to realize is over the years and most recently that Americans don’t know who Latinos are,” he said.
He said the Hispanic caucus committee has taken “head on” the representation and portrayal of Latinos in America media during this term.
“We have made a very conscious effort to challenge the lack of representation in this industry,” Castro said.
He added that Congress is going to continue to “pound away at these things” but noted that it has “a lot” of work to do.
Castro said he encourages students to surround themselves with people who will believe in them.
“There are a lot of folks that are downers and will challenge your belief in yourself,” he said. “You got to find a way to surround yourself with people who believe in you.”