Beto O’Rourke’s name is unusual, and it has a lot of people confused about his ethnicity. The O’Rourke part is easy – one would think it’s Irish. But what does “Beto” mean?
His legal name is actually Robert Francis O’Rourke. “Beto” O’Rourke will join a group of other candidates on the stage for the first Democratic debate on June 26, 2019. O’Rourke’s use of the name Beto has caused some controversy; some people it sounds Mexican-American.
In fact, he opened up the first Democratic debate by repeating his first answer in fluent Spanish.
O’Rourke’s father is a judge in El Paso named Patrick Francis “Pat” O’Rourke, who is descended from Irish immigrants who came to the United States three generations ago. The Miami Herald reported that Beto is not Latino; rather he’s a fourth-generation Irish-American with a Spanish nickname given to him in childhood by his father. Beto is the Spanish shorthand for Robert, according to the Miami Herald.
Here’s what you need to know:
Beto O’Rourke Has Irish Roots on Both His Mother’s & Father’s Side
O’Rourke is Irish in heritage on both sides.
According to Irish Central, Beto O’Rourke’s great-great-grandfather Bernard O’Rourke “was born in Glencar, North Leitrim on November 30, 1830, and he died in a buggy accident on August 28, 1896, in Talmadge, Otoe County Nebraska.”
The site reports that O’Rourke’s mother is also of Irish heritage. His mother’s family comes from Ireland, too, according to Irish Central, which has elaborately traced O’Rourke’s family tree, a summary of which you can read here.
The Carlow Nationalist reported that O’Rourke has roots in Carlow, Ireland. “… his maternal great-great-great-grandmother was one Mary Ann McGrath, who was born in Milford in 1837,” the site reported. “The daughter of Michael McGrath and Margaret Doyle, she was christened in Tinryland parish. She emigrated aged 12, arriving in the port of New York in January 1850.”
He comes from a “long line of railroad workers,” according to Irish Central.
Some People Are Upset That Beto’s Nickname Sounds Mexican-American
Ruben Navarrette Jr., an opinion columnist for USA Today, wrote a column critical of a perceived attempt by O’Rourke to confuse Latino voters into thinking he’s of that ethnic heritage. “They’re concerned that Robert Francis O’Rourke…is trying to put one over on Latinos by tricking them into thinking he’s one of them,” the columnist wrote.
Beto O’Rourke is from the border town of El Paso, Texas. “I realized I wasn’t a New Yorker. I’m a Texan, an El Pasoan,” O’Rourke once told The Dallas Morning News. O’Rourke is fluent in Spanish, according to the newspaper.
His father, Pat O’Rourke, gave his son the nickname. He felt that nicknames were common in Mexico and border towns and “if he ever ran for office in El Paso, the odds of being elected in this mostly Mexican-American city were far greater with a name like Beto than Robert Francis O’Rourke,” The Dallas Morning News reported. In addition, Beto’s grandfather was also named Robert.
“My parents have called me Beto from day one, and it’s just — it’s kind of a nickname for Robert in El Paso. It just stuck,” O’Rourke told CNN.