Rosie Castro credits the YWCA for helping her become a leader in San Antonio Latino politics and civil rights. As a single mother of twin boys, Castro acknowledged she struggled to balance her political ambitions with motherhood. So when she needed help, she turned to the West Side YWCA.
“We [were living through] systematic, institutional racism,” Castro said. “And today, while it is not quite the same, there is much of it that still exists. … That’s why it’s so inspiring to see the Y really try to systematically do something about helping people to have those opportunities.”
The YWCA reciprocated that appreciation on Tuesday by honoring Castro with its 10th Woman of Influence Award during an event at the Pearl Stable. The group also honored Erika Prosper, an H-E-B executive and community leader who is married to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, with the Empowering Woman Award.
Castro and Prosper, who both grew up in poor working-class families, said childcare provides a critical opportunity for women and their children to thrive.
San Antonio’s YWCA was founded more than 100 years with two basic tenets – to eliminate racism and empower women. Castro’s son Julián, a former San Antonio mayor who is currently vying for the Democratic nomination for President, introduced his mother during the event and noted the YWCA “helped us get through tough times when she was raising us as a single parent.”
Castro helped found La Raza Unida in the 1970s, was a political organizer for labor and banking activist groups in the Chicano movement, served as a dean at Palo Alto College, and continues to advocate for civil rights. She also raised two successful politicians; Julián’s twin brother is U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio).
However, she also realizes she was fortunate to have found support in her endeavors. For many women, people of color, and low-income populations that opportunity – as well as access to education and better jobs – is still out of reach, Castro said.
The role of civil rights activists is just as important today – if not more so, she said.
“Never before have we seen children caged [and] separated from their parents,” she said. “Never before have we seen [so many] denials of climate change. However you look at it, you find that if there is a government that is not listening to the people then the people have to find voices.”
The local YWCA chapter, part of the organization originally founded in New York as the Young Women’s Christian Association, offers preschool and afterschool childcare, career and sports programming for teens, and wellness activities for people of all ages. It recently partnered with United Way to launch an awareness campaign about the wage equity gap between “white men and everyone else” in San Antonio, said YWCA CEO Francesca Rattray.
If women’s paychecks were made equal, there would be another $19 billion added to the city’s 2016 gross domestic product, Prosper said, citing a SABÉR Research Institute study funded in part by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Women contributed another $20 billion worth was performed in unpaid “housework.”
“A woman’s number one barrier to advancing her career – and quite frankly to get an education – has been noted as childcare,” said Prosper, who has served as the chamber’s board president. When she doesn’t have to take on the all-day responsibilities of childcare, a woman can then “take on those things that she has had to basically put on the side. … When you relieve a woman’s burden and guilt around childcare … you are releasing then that time, intelligence, and treasure that she will then give her community.”
Economic development incentives should include a requirement for childcare, Prospers said, directing the audience to pressure elected officials to that end.
“[Childcare] really should be an economic development strategy,” she said.
How San Antonio takes care of children is also the key to YWCA’s other goal of eliminating racism, Castro said in conclusion.
“Besides electing Julián for president,” she said to laughter and applause, “I really believe … that it’s the children that we have the most hope for. Because children don’t start off hating. Children don’t see differences. … They are able to see the world through the eyes of God where everyone is a child of God.”