The Prince of South Waco is the moving, turbulent rite of passage memoir of growing up Latino in Texas in mid-20th Century America. It is the true story of American journalist and historian Tony Castro -- author of the landmark civil rights history Chicano Power -- who luckily would be rescued from an elementary school class for mentally impaired children.
"A dozen years later I was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard closing down the Faculty Club with celebrated author and Nieman alumnus Larry L. King. We were knee walking drunk almost through the snow in Harvard Yard in the direction of the Chauncy Street townhouse where I was living beyond the square and arguing over just which town in our distinguished native state of Texas had once been the home of an ignominious sign taking pride in its racism of the past.
"'Welcome to Waco -- Home of the Blackest Land and the Whitest People.'
"I grew up in Waco, in the heart of the Bible Belt in mid 20th century America, bilingual, bi-cultural, and religiously bi-polar. I was both Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic. But I quoted too much Protestant scripture for a good Catholic, and I knew too many saints and too much Latin for an acceptable Baptist. I was also Hispanic at a time in segregated Texas when there were still three restroom facilities in public places -- one for whites, one for blacks, and one for Mexicans. Perhaps it was an omen of my future that I could use the public toilets reserved for whites. I could pass.
"My English was impeccable. I was on the honor roll. My best friend was the son of the president of Baylor University, the college town's pride and joy, and I could recite the prelude to The Odyssey -- in ancient Greek. I was Mexican and Spaniard but with the luck of the Irish from a distant ancestor. I was the Third World, before we ever knew there was a Third World, living the American Dream deep in what we lovingly called "the heart of Texas" -- which my distinguished fellow writer friend Mr. King was quick to say is proof that there's nothing wrong with Texas that a coronary transplant couldn't help correct."
From the Author
"I was third generation American on one side of my family and fifth generation on the other. After World War II, my paternal grandfather who had fought with Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution relocated his entire extended family to Waco, and there bought a huge, dilapidated Victorian house that had been a notorious brothel at the turn of the century. I was born there, in a former madam's bedroom. In my youth, my parents nearly had heart attacks when they heard that I was going around town bragging that I had been born in a scandalous bordello. They were especially upset because by this time our home was a nice brick house just a block off the university campus. Our neighbors were professors. Imagine, though, the shock at high school interscholastic league competitions when the first six words out of my mouth were "I was born in a whorehouse." Six words, and I was halfway home to a speech tournament medal. That is how desperately I wanted to be a writer. I dreamed of doing stand-up comedy on Jack Paar's Tonight show -- and my jokes about my low birth in a brothel never grew old."
From the Inside Flap
A 40th anniversary edition of Chicano Power was published in 2014, with a new prologue and an introduction by Carlos Guerra, a founder of the movement in Texas and later a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. This is part of his endearing tribute:
"Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America is a magnificent tour de force and masterpiece of contemporary American history --- as close to a Chicano Iliad as we will ever have. As a founder of MAYO [Mexican American Youth Organization] and La Raza Unida political movements, I personally knew Tony Castro during that period and spent days and sometimes weeks traveling with him -- and often subjected to his relentless but charming inquisitiveness.
"It gained him unprecedented access for a historian and journalist to all of us who were central to the Chicano civil rights developments of in the 1960s and 1970s, making him a unique eyewitness to what unfolded not only in Texas but also throughout the Southwest. His reporting for newspapers after he graduated from college was always accurate, fair and incisive, even when some of us might have wished at times that he had not been so omnipresent. With Chicano Power, he established himself as the leading historian of a remarkable period of American Latino social, political and cultural change."
About the Author
Tony Castro is a Harvard and Baylor University-educated historian, Napoleonic scholar and the author of Mickey Mantle: America's Prodigal Son, DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers, and Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage, among others.
He is currently working on a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Critical Acclaim for Tony Castro's
The Prince of South Waco: American Dreams and Great Expectations
"Readers who step into Tony's Time Machine, The Prince of South Waco, are in for a thrilling, lyrical ride, a true tale of romantic woes and raucous rebellion that will break readers' hearts. Castro's coming-of-age story is a painfully poignant memoir of romance, racism and self-discovery fraught with recollections of lynchings, Jim Crow-ism, no-white-girl speeches, growing up Chicano and excelling as one of the best and brightest of emerging young journalists of his time. 'How do you reclaim your destiny when it has been so connected with a love that has been lost?' asks the author. And therein lies this soulful impasse."
Preston F. Kirk,
formerly of United Press International, Houston
"Tony Castro's honest and powerful memoir captures the essential American story of the struggle for cultural assimilation. The very best stories are written in blood, and in Castro's finely woven personal narrative, the reader can almost feel his heart beating."
Contributing columnist, The Waco Tribune-Herald