When San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro took the podium at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, it was a historic moment.
It was the first time a Latino keynote speaker graced the stage at the DNC, according to the DNC’s website.
During the speech that was broadcasted via C-SPAN, Castro began by telling the story of his grandmother, who moved from Mexico to San Antonio. She taught herself how to read and write in both Spanish and English, and worked as a maid, cook and babysitter to give his mother a better life, he said.
Castro said his grandmother would have been amazed that one of her grandsons is the mayor of San Antonio and the other — his brother, Joaquin Castro — is running for U.S. Congress. America provided the education and opportunities for their success, he said.
"Ours is a nation like no other, a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation," Castro said. "No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward."
Castro’s speaking role highlighted the quest of both parties to woo the growing population of Latino voters, who are up for grabs, political experts said.
Sophia McClennen, a Penn State professor of international affairs and comparative literature, said Castro had an important story to tell. Republicans portray immigrants as lazy, coming to the U.S. to take use of its services and taking more than they give, she said.
But Castro recounted the story of immigrants who come to the U.S., work incredibly hard and teach their children the values of both their culture and the U.S. culture, she said.
Both Democrats and Republicans are trying to convey the message that they’re on Latinos’ side, said David Myers, professor of political science.
Republicans also tried to draw the Latino vote with convention speakers Marco Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Myers said.
Myers said in 2008, Latino voters favored Obama. However, George W. Bush was popular with Latinos in 2004. Democrats are trying to keep their lead with Latino voters, while Republicans are trying to win them back, he said.
"Both parties are going to compete very clearly for their votes," Myers said. "The Latino vote is very much up for grabs."
The Latino vote could decide the election, he said.
Ryan Lamare, assistant professor in the department of labor studies and employment relations, said Latinos had been marginalized. Parties have since recognized that they’re a critical piece of the political puzzle. Now, Latino union members go door-to-door to try to get out the Latino vote for Democrats, Lamare said.
Latinos, women and the elderly will have the strongest voices in deciding the election, but the Latino voice is the newest, Lamare said.
"Because we live in a country that’s so polarized with such a shrinking number of undecided voters," he said, "we’re living in a climate when any shift or any new entrant in the political arena can tip the scales one way or another."