Arizona's only Latino governor is the subject of an award-winning YA book by a Tucson author

By Tom Maxedon
Published: Friday, August 11, 2023 - 12:40pm
Updated: Saturday, August 12, 2023 - 9:29am

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Roni Capin Ashford-Rivera
Ray Flores
Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford is author of “Raulito: The First Latino Governor of Arizona.” She's shown here in December 2021 in Tucson.

The Arizona State Library’s “Center for the Book” has chosen a young-adult biography to represent the state at Saturday’s National Book Festival of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The book is about the only Latino Governor of Arizona, Raúl H. Castro, and is written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford, a Tucson-based former bilingual educator.

“He’s an amazing role model, very positive, no matter how many obstacles he faced, how much discrimination, how many doors were slammed in his face. He always overcame them,” she said.

“Raulito: The First Latino Governor of Arizona” is aimed at readers ages 8 to adults and is Rivera-Ashford’s third book to be chosen for the Library of Congress’ Great Reads from Great Places.

The story tracks Castro's life from boyhood to his time at what now is Northern Arizona University, his careers in education and law to his eventual election as governor in 1974 and time as U.S. ambassador to three different countries.

According to a separate release, “Castro was one of 11 children born in the Mexican state of Sonora. His family crossed the border at Naco, Arizona, in 1918 and moved to Pirtleville when “Raulito” was just two. Despite pervasive racism and poverty, Castro grew up to be a teacher, boxer, attorney, judge, U.S. ambassador to three nations and the first — and so far, only — Latino governor of Arizona from 1975-1977.”

He resigned when President Jimmy Carter tapped him to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina in 1977.

Rivera-Ashford said the book was inspired by a dream.

“The next morning I woke up and it was very clear because it was just going round and round in my head: Raulito becomes the governor,” she remembered. “Right then, I knew I was meant to write a children’s book about his life.”

With a background in education, she deeply identifies with Castro.

According to the same release, “Arizona’s Center for the Book will distribute limited copies of the book to public and school libraries across the state and create a teacher’s guide to help educators tie the book to their curriculum and connect to the state’s standards.

The theme of this year’s National Book Festival is "Everyone Has a Story." The Library of Congress has recorded videos featuring the Great Reads authors, including Rivera-Ashford, discussing their books and how their books fit into this year’s National Book Festival theme. The recording can be found at Great Reads: Western 2 Children.”

raul castro
Arizona State Archives, Image No. 97-7703
Former Arizona Gov. Raul Castro on a horse at San Xavier del Bac Mission, near Tucson.

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