The family of the three brothers who allegedly held three women captive for almost a decade was reportedly among the first Hispanic families to settle in Cleveland.
The family of the Castro brothers – Ariel, 52, Onil, 50 and Pedro, 54 – came from Puerto Rico, moving to Pennsylvania before settling in Cleveland just after World War II. They arrived in Cleveland when the brothers were teenagers.
The family started small businesses on the lower west side of town, led by the brothers’ uncle, Julio "Cesi" Castro, 78, according to a story in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Cesi still runs Caribe Grocery, a bodega which opened up in the late 1950s, and has worked hard for what was undoubtedly a respected family name in the Hispanic neighborhood – until three women kidnapped almost a decade ago were found in Ariel Castro's home.
"He's helped more Hispanic families then the welfare department," Jose Feliciano, a lawyer and head of the Hispanic Roundtable, a civic group working to empower Latinos, told The Plain Dealer. "He's an extraordinary human being."
According to 2010 U.S. Census data, the growth of the Latino population in Cleveland and the neighboring town of Lorain grew dramatically over the last ten years. In Cleveland alone the Hispanic community increased by 13.8 percent, in Lorain by 12.0 percent.
Castro is known in the neighborhood as someone who gives cash credit to those who can’t afford groceries or are short in cash.
The Castro family started the first Latino record shop in Cleveland in the 1970s, a used car lot, and a hardware store in the neighborhood.
"Cesi has got to be devastated over all this," said Feliciano. "I feel sorry for him. On a personal note, I'm embarrassed to death."
Since the news broke, Cesi Castro has not shied away from the spotlight. He was one of the first people interviewed about the brothers – and while he expressed shock, he also condemned his nephews’ alleged actions.
"They never showed signs of any evil," Castro said on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday.
Maria Montes Castro, a first cousin of the Castro brothers who also spoke to “Fox & Friends” Wednesday, echoed those sentiments.
"Devastation," Montes Castro said she felt when she first heard the news. "Obviously shock. This is all unfolding in our family as well as it is to the rest of the world. I mean, we had no indication of any of this. We are deeply saddened that members of our family could have had anything to do with this."
Montes Castro said she had never been in the house.
"They were always embraced as part of the family," she said. "They were at funerals and weddings."
Montes Castro's kids went to school with Amanda Berry, one of the three victims, and she said the Castro family has been friends with Gina DeJesus's family, another victim, since they moved to Cleveland.
"These girls lost 10 years of their lives and they are never going to get that back," she said. "Our family is trying to come to grips with how this all happened and how this was kept quiet for so long, it's unbelievable."