Longtime civil rights activist Rosie Castro was sworn in Thursday to represent District 7 on City Council, after running unsuccessfully for an at-large seat in 1971.

“I’m honored to have your consideration,” she told council members. “I promise I will be a team builder. … And if we differ that it will be done in a respectful way.”

Her appointment through the remainder of the current council term was approved unanimously.

“It is my great honor … to be the first in our city to ever call you Councilwoman Castro,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Much has changed since Castro was working with La Raza Unida party to recruit Mexican American candidates for office in the 1970s, at a time when all City Council seats were elected at-large from across the city and local political power was in the hands of the mostly white Good Government League. The 1977 election was the first in which the city elected representatives from individual districts.

Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) said Castro “wrestled control of that city” away from powerful business elites who ran the city for decades.

“There are 10 City Council seats, each one that represents its own unique part of the city, because Rosie Castro fought that fight,” said Pelaez. “…This is the long arc of history finally delivering justice.”

Like the city, the current City Council is majority-minority. Members of the council are required to live in their districts. In 2021, two members endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America were elected to the dais.

“She opened the door for people who would not win election after election because the cards were stacked against us. … She opened doors for all of us,” said former District 1 Councilwoman María Antonietta Berriozábal, the first Hispanic woman to serve on the council, who spoke on Castro’s behalf Thursday.

Castro, whose own political career was eventually eclipsed by those of her twin sons, will represent the district for roughly three months before a new member chosen in the May municipal election is sworn in.

Council was tasked with filling the seat when Ana Sandoval stepped down to accept a job at University Health last month. Sandoval had represented the Westside district since 2017, and her last day on the City Council was Jan. 29.

Members of the council eliminated three other applicants after brief interviews Wednesday.

They approved the rest of the agenda on consent Thursday, leaving the lion’s share of the meeting to honor Castro and highlight her political contributions to the city.

“You have served, you have given me support, you’ve given me advice, you’ve given me tough love. … You have been an inspiration to me, to be here, to do this work,” said Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6). “To have you on this dais here pretty soon … is humbling.”

Rosie Castro, left, with her son, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro following her appointment to Council District 7.
Rosie Castro, left, with her son, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julían Castro following her appointment to serve Council District 7. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Castro was joined Thursday by son Julián Castro, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, three-term mayor and District 7 councilman.

“[She] has a passion for serving others … is very knowledgeable about all of the things that we do in local government and eager and willing and has the time and energy to serve the community,” he said.

Rosie Castro’s other son, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), is recovering after having cancerous tumors removed earlier this week.

Avatar photo

Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.