Texas Politics

What’s in a nickname? For some Latinos, Beto ‘makes us feel like family’

What’s in a name?

Depends on whom you ask.

Some have criticized U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke — whose legal name is Robert Francis O’Rourke — for his Latino nickname.

But at his rally on the city’s north side Friday evening, voters were far from turned off. Voters of all different backgrounds toughed out the rain and danced to 80’s tunes, Mexican banda music and even contemporary reggaeton as they waited for O’Rourke to take the stage.

Lucina Mendez, 66, said that the name Beto is a personal touch to a political campaign, and that it makes her trust him more.

“I feel proud that he makes us feel like family,” Mendez said in Spanish. “He makes us feel very comfortable by using the name Beto.”

Cecilia Fierro, 46, that “Beto” goes beyond being a nickname and speaks to his values.

“Latinos will normally give people a nickname and by him using the name Beto, it shows that he’s proud to be a Texan and that he’s proud to be from El Paso,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful.”

“Beto” is a common nickname for Latinos with names like Roberto, Alberto, Gilberto and others.

In March, Cruz’s campaign even put out a radio ad letting Texans know that the man known as “Beto” is truly Robert Francis O’Rourke.

The ad, a jingle, said: “If you are going to run in Texas, you can’t be a liberal man. I remember reading stories, liberal Robert wanted to fit in. So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin.”

When asked about it by CNN, O’Rourke explained that it’s a childhood nickname that stuck when he was growing up in El Paso. He later posted a photo on Instagram, perhaps as proof.

At the same time, Cruz’s full name is Rafael Edward Cruz and he goes by “Ted.”

“We have an Irish-American candidate named Robert O’Rourke running under his Hispanic nickname Beto and a Cuban-American candidate named Rafael Cruz running with the Anglo nickname ‘Ted,’” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU.

“I think that is a wonderful Texas irony. His nickname is why people say O’Rourke is trying to pass himself off as Hispanic, but with the name O’Rourke it’s kind of difficult to argue he is being duplicitous.”

Hanaa’ Tameez, 817-390-7991, @HTameez
Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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