Beto O’Rourke’s nickname is Spanish, but his last name is Irish. What gives? How did Beto O’Rourke get his nickname?
Some people have criticized O’Rourke for supposedly using the Spanish-sounding nickname to curry favor with Latino voters (no, he’s not Latino). However, Beto has used the nickname since childhood. His father gave it to him. There is a political dimension to the name, though, because his dad was a political figure in El Paso, Texas who thought the Spanish-sounding name would help his son in that community if he ever ran for office.
When Ted Cruz criticized O’Rourke for his nickname during that campaign, Beto tweeted a photo proving he used the name since childhood (Cruz’s name isn’t actually Ted Cruz, by the way; it’s Rafael Edward Cruz):
“Beto” O’Rourke will take the stage with other 2020 presidential candidates for the first Democratic debate on June 26, 2019.
How do you pronounce Beto? According to National Review, O’Rourke says it’s “Bet-o” not “Bait-o.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Beto’s Dad Gave Him the Nickname When He was a Kid But His Legal Name Is Robert
Beto’s legal name is a lot more mundane; it’s Robert Francis O’Rourke.
O’Rourke’s father Patrick Francis “Pat” O’Rourke is a judge, and he’s responsible for the nickname. 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.
His father, Pat O’Rourke, gave his son the nickname because he felt that nicknames were common in Mexico and border towns and “if he (Beto) 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 so Beto’s dad felt there was a need to differentiate them.
“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. Metro explains that Beto is a common nickname in Spanish for Robert or Roberto, and “O’Rourke acquired the nickname as a toddler.”
He was growing up in a community with a 75 percent Latino population, the site reports. According to NBC News, in addition to working as a judge, Beto’s dad was a county commissioner and worked on the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson.
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.
National Review reported that the nickname Beto is a common Spanish name used for people whose names end with ‘berto, including Alberto not just Roberto.
Beto O’Rourke Is of Irish Heritage
O’Rourke is Irish in heritage on both his maternal and paternal side. 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.