When Arizona Elected a Mexican Immigrant GovernorHistorians in the News
tags: racism, Arizona, Mexican American
TUCSON, Ariz. — The heat in the Sonoran Desert neared 100 degrees on the day several years ago when Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint pulled over an elderly Hispanic man, dressed impeccably in a tailored suit.
They ordered him out of his vehicle and requested his identity papers, which showed that he was a Mexican-born immigrant named Raúl H. Castro. He had turned 96 that very day.
Ana Doan, a longtime friend who was driving him to a birthday celebration in Tucson, pleaded without success to be allowed to give him some water.
“I was screaming at the agents, telling them they were holding the former governor of the state of Arizona,” she said.
Born in 1916 in northern Mexico into a poverty-stricken family that crossed the border when he was a child, Mr. Castro was elected Arizona’s first and only Latino governor in 1974, the pinnacle of an exceptional political career that seems nearly unimaginable to replicate in today’s Arizona.
Since Mr. Castro’s historic victory 46 years ago, no Latino has been elected to any statewide office in Arizona, much less as governor. Instead, Arizona turned into a testing ground for policies aimed at keeping foreigners out and curbing the influence of Latinos in American politics — policies that helped lay the groundwork for anti-immigrant measures in other states and in the Trump White House.