Julian Castro Was Shaped By Two Cultures And His Accent Shows It

The former San Antonio mayor embraces both his American and Hispanic heritage in the way he speaks.

By Michael MarksMay 30, 2019 1:47 pm,

In this installment of the monthly segment “Texan Translation,” we look at the duality in accents and diction exhibited by one of Texas’ highest-profile politicians, Julián Castro served as mayor of San Antonio from 2009 to 2014, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017 and has most recently launched a presidential campaign.

Lars Hinrichs, associate professor of English linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, and director of the Texas English Project, says Castro’s accent rarely shows signs of being from Texas.

“I want ya’ll to look around this neighborhood, there are no front-runners that are born here. But I’ve always believe that with big dreams and hard work, anything is possible in this country”, Castro said during the announcement of his presidential campaign.

Hinrichs says the one of the only indication from that speech of a Texas accent comes from Castro’s use of the word “y’all.”

Hinrichs also points out the way Castro says words like “house” and “move.” While the way these words are spoken can be easy indicators of a Texas accent, you wouldn’t hear that from Castro.

“It’s my theory that being HUD secretary in D.C. really finished off his Texas accent for good,” Hinrichs says.  

Castro was born and raised in San Antonio, and his accent is different from the typical Texas accent. Castro is the grandson of Mexican immigrants and was raised by a mother fluent in Spanish. While Castro is not fluent in Spanish himself, he still takes influence from the language he hears around him.

Castro often switches between Spanish and English pronunciation when he speaks, something typical of Americans who come from Spanish-speaking families, says Hinrichs.

“That’s part of having a two-sided cultural background,” Hinrichs says.

“My mother was an activist in the Chicano movement… when my brother Joaquin and I were young she used to drag us to rallies and meetings,” Castro said.

Hinrichs highlights how Castro says “Chicano” with a Spanish accent and “Joaquin” with an English accent.

“The majority of the world’s population speaks more than one language… it’s natural to switch between accent systems” Hinrichs says.

Written by Astrid Alvarado.