CASTRO SUPPORTERS OCCUPY HEMISFAIR FOR RALLY
April 11, 2019 - Hemisfair Park (Downtown SA)
By: Jonathan Guajardo - Editor, San Antonio Sentinel
Walking up to Hemisfair Plaza from neighboring Southtown San Antonio, rousing chants could be heard reverberating off the city’s surrounding skyscrapers. Inaudible though they were from such a distance, the crowd noise carried through the corridors and alleys of the city, informing the residents that something notable was taking place in the redeveloped downtown green space. This notable event happening in the city’s centermost park was the “People First” Rally for Julián Castro’s presidential bid.
The crowd pushed towards the LED-lit stage, waiting to see the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development give a speech regarding the President’s visit to San Antonio earlier that day. A mixture of politically involved young people and civically motivated SA mainstays made up the menagerie of attendees present. A barrage of photojournalists and reporters stood on risers in the back of the assemblage with their instruments of mass-communication pointed towards the stage, ready to broadcast the former San Antonio mayor’s message throughout the nation.
Acting as lead-in’s to Castro’s speech were many notable speakers and community activists including local activist, Jennifer K. Falcon, who referred to President Trump’s visit earlier that day in her remarks. Stating that the presence of such a large crowd, “Sends a strong message to Donald Trump that he and his hateful rhetoric are not welcome in San Antonio,” she managed to elicit a loud response from the crowd who anxiously awaited their moment to catch a glimpse of their local boy turned D.C. Democrat.
Other notable opening speeches came from Maria Victoria De La Cruz of the Texas Organizing Project and Zenén Pérez, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project. Often shouting at the top of their lungs into an already well-amplified microphone, De La Cruz and Pérez’s fiery orations centered mostly around immigration issues. Remarking that he was very excited to talk about “the bold things that we really need to do to stop this crisis once and for all,” Pérez emphasized that he was also thrilled to see a plan for a pathway to citizenship put forward by Castro and that he wants “to stop the freakin wall.”
After these opening appeals had been made, Maya Rupert, Campaign Manager for the Julián for the Future Campaign, came forward to introduce the youthful candidate and his family to the crowd of about 500 San Antonians who began to cheer and convulse in rhythmic ecstasy as Selena’s “Baila Esta Cumbia” played over the loudspeakers and Julián began his trek through the throngs of constituents to the stage. Waving “People First” signs, the audience enthusiastically greeted the former San Antonio politician as he approached the podium led by his family. Swaggering with a confidence often reserved for the beginning of a Presidential campaign, Castro waved to the audience and began his appeal.
“Well you know Donald Trump was in town today,” began Castro. “But you know, I’m not thinking about just today. I’m thinking about January 20, 2021. Somebody asked me the other day, ‘What would the first thing be that you do?’ And I said, ‘The first thing I would do is sign an executive order to recommit the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, but my favorite moment of the day is going to come a little bit before that when it’s traditional for the incoming President to usher out the outgoing President!” Hearing this statement brought the crowd to a roar and launched Julián into his next assertion, “And right before he leaves…right before he walks to the helicopter, I’m going to tell him, ‘Adios!’” Clapping and chanting, the assembly stood ready to hear the rest of Castro’s statement.
The majority of the former mayor’s speech focused around Immigration Issues with some mention of educational topics such as his goal to provide the nation with universal Pre-Kinder and higher education. In regards to immigration, Castro led with an impassioned statement that he saw, “the face of my grandmother in the face of the immigrants who are coming over the border today.” Urging that the nation needs what he described as a more compassionate immigration policy, the former HUD Secretary stated that he would like to raise the number of refugees the nation takes in every year, in a dramatic reversal of current protocol.
Responding to the concerns of politicians who state that allowing an influx of immigrants into the country would make the nation less safe, he defended his position by adding that Texas border towns with large immigrant populations are “some of the safest cities in the entire country. They’re beautiful cities. They’re wonderful cities. They’re cities of wonderful people.” He then went on to make an assertion that he regards as politically incorrect, referring to his belief that the nation needs migrants to work in order to sustain an economy supported by aging Baby Boomers.
The Presidential hopeful then went on to briefly address his plan for a universal healthcare program as well as his intention to institute more policies relating to reversing the putative effects of climate change before proudly asserting, “I grew up on the Westside of San Antonio and I’m proud of it.’ Some people have said, ‘Well you know you’re not a frontrunner,’ and I tell them I wasn’t born a frontrunner. I didn’t grow up a frontrunner.” He then led into his closing statement, “We’re going to make America the ultimate front runner in the 21st Century!” Waving to the zealous crowd, Castro leapt off stage into the masses to shake the hands of those in attendance and receive embraces from several at the event.
Jared Anaya, a Castro supporter described his feelings after attending the event: “I was impressed. I was very happy with the turnout. I love that Julián is local. He’s San Antonio. He represented for the people and people came out for him.” In regards to Trump’s luncheon that took place earlier that day at the Argyle Club in Alamo Heights, Anaya emphasized that he thinks the Castro rally “is a good response to having Trump here” and shows that the President isn’t welcome in San Antonio.