Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford: The Power of Persevering

June 7, 2022
Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford with her book Raulito: The First Latino Governor of Arizona

Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford with her book "Raulito: The First Latino Governor of Arizona"

Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford, an award-winning children’s book author, is donating some of the proceeds from her latest book Raulito: The First Latino Governor of Arizona – a young adult book about Raúl H. Castro – to various projects honoring the late governor’s legacy, including a scholarship in the Center for Latin American Studies and the Raúl H. Castro project in Nogales, Ariz., to facilitate border research, education, and community connections.

Rivera-Ashford, who grew up in Nogales, Ariz., has also published three bilingual children’s books and written several books for Disney to accompany the movie Coco. She spoke to Developments about what inspired her to share the “hidden history” of Castro, who overcame hardship and discrimination to reach the highest levels of government as the only Mexican American governor of Arizona and as a U.S. Ambassador to three countries.

Q: You were a bilingual educator and then a translator for many years. What inspired you to also be a writer?

I loved writing as a creative expression and as a healing process for myself, starting when I was a teenager. When I was teaching Spanish-speaking first- and second-graders how to read in their home language, finding reading material that was culturally relevant, that was at their reading level, and also available in English was hard. That’s when I wrote My Nana’s Remedies / Los Remedios De Mi Nana. I used it to teach my students how to read.

When I transitioned from being a teacher to being a translator for the school district, I had a bit more time on my hands. I felt inspired to do my best to get the book published. It took me a long time – 64 rejections – but I didn’t give up!

Q. Why did you decide to write a young adult book about Raúl H. Castro?

When I first met Governor Castro, I gifted him my first two books, and he was delighted, especially with My Nana’s Remedies since his mother was a curandera, a healer. He gifted me a copy of his autobiography, Adversity Is My Angel: The Life and Career of Raúl H. Castro [written with Jack L. August, Jr.].

The book touched me deeply. I thought, “This is a story that young people need to know.” His legacy has so much to offer young people – and older people. It’s an inspiration to just keep going and do your best.

I also had a dream about it. I don’t often remember my dreams, and one morning I woke up and remembered hearing, “Raulito becomes the governor.” To me that was a sign that I needed to write a book about him. I was grateful that he gave me his blessing because I wouldn’t have done it without that.

Q. Why did you decide to donate part of the book’s proceeds to UArizona programs related to Raúl H. Castro?

I feel it’s really important to give back to the community and to support students. When I was speaking with Governor Castro and his wife, Pat, I told them, “My dream is to get this story published. It’s not easy. I don’t know how long it will take. But I will persist, and when it does, I’m promising you that I will donate a portion of what I earn to your foundations, which will continue to inspire young people and provide opportunities for scholarships.”


This story was included in the summer 2022 Developments newsletter