STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Tonight at the Democratic National Convention, Julian Castro will deliver the keynote speech, prompting many Americans to ask - who? The 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio, Texas is Castro. He is what many will call the new face of the Democratic Party. From San Antonio, Texas Public Radio's David Martin Davies has more.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Good morning, folks. We have four different kinds of tacos. We have...
DAVID MARTIN DAVIES, BYLINE: It's the weekend before the start of the Democratic National Convention, and in San Antonio, St. Paul Catholic Church parishioners like Larry Ybarra are sending off one of their own with a breakfast taco rally.
LARRY YBARRA: I think it's a great step when you look at - the progressions happen with the parties that have gone from not recognizing the Hispanic community to having somebody in the very front, you know, being the keynote speaker. That's like a thousand percent improvement over the last several years.
DAVIES: This is the neighborhood where Julian Castro and his twin brother Joaquin grew up - going to high school at Jefferson just down the street. Before becoming mayor, Julian first represented this working class Mexican-American neighborhood on the city council. Brother Joaquin is their state rep in Austin and Democratic nominee for Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hi, how are you?
DAVIES: But if you want to know Julian and Joaquin, you need to start with their mother, Rosie. As a single mom, she raised the two boys and pushed them to stay out of trouble and excel in school. At the rally, she's greeted at the door with kisses and chants from the crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Rosie, Rosie, Rosie, Rosie.
DAVIES: Julian's story of success is similar to President Barack Obama's and local Tea Party activists like George Rodriguez say there's another comparison between the two.
GEORGE RODRIGUEZ: I see a very, very clear similarity between the upbringing that Mr. Obama had in a nontraditional home and being mentored by radicals, and same thing with the Castros being brought up in a nontraditional home by their mother, who herself was a member of the Raza Unida Party, which was very, very radical.
DAVIES: In the 1970s, Raza Unida was a civil rights organization that campaigned for better working, housing and education opportunities for Mexican-Americans. Rosie was one of its leaders in South Texas. She broke barriers by organizing voter registration, getting out the vote, and putting new Mexican-American candidates on the ballot. Julian shrugs off any suggestion that Raza Unida was a radical cell.
MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: If somebody calls trying to get people to vote radical, then, you know, that's quite a difference from the United States because the democratic process is about the biggest blessing we have in this country.
DAVIES: When the twin brothers arrive at the hall, the crowd goes wild, slapping their backs and snapping smartphone pics. Julian tells the gathering what to expect Tuesday night.
CASTRO: I'm not going to be talking to any empty chairs up there.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
DAVIES: Castro said he did watch parts of last week's GOP convention and he expects a more positive tone at the DNC. He's been practicing using the teleprompter and tweaking the script that he says will tell his version of the American Dream and explain why he supports the president's re-election.
CASTRO: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit nervous. It's something new. But by the time I get up there on Tuesday night, I'll be ready.
DAVIES: Back home, the feeling around the neighborhood is that history is taking place, that a local boy is heading for Charlotte and coming back a national political figure, who one day might be running for the White House himself.
For NPR News, I'm David Martin Davies in San Antonio.