May 26th, 2009
12:16 PM ET
9 years ago

Latinos rejoice in Sotomayor nomination

(CNN) - Cecilia Lopez, a student who is the first person from her family to go to college, sees something of herself in the first Hispanic woman to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"To me, as a student that comes from a low-income background, I think she's a true example of the fact that when you're wanting to achieve something, it's truly possible, regardless of your background," said Lopez, a 20-year-old senior at the University of Texas.

On Tuesday, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor, a woman of Puerto Rican descent, to the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed, Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic person and only the third woman to serve on the nation's highest court.

In the wake of the nomination, Hispanics celebrated Sotomayor as a symbol of success and also as a reflection of the changing demographics of the country. In a sense, she is the Hispanic community's answer to Obama's narrative - a sign that, as Lopez said, anything is possible in America if a person works hard enough, no matter their race or economic situation.

Sotomayor, 54, a federal judge in New York, rose from humble beginnings. She grew up in a South Bronx housing project, supported by her mother, who worked six days a week. Sotomayor has called her mother her inspiration and said she instilled in her the values of education.

Sotomayor went on to attend Princeton University and Yale Law School.

Her story of battling past obstacles is an inspiration for all Hispanic people, said Roberto Ramirez, president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association.

"It would be hard for anyone to argue that somehow merit and talent and commitment and perseverance ... does not ultimately yield the kind of achievement that is recognized by everyone," he said.

Although it may not be possible for everyone to succeed against the odds, "at this juncture, we are closer to the ideal than we have ever been," Ramirez said. Gender, ethnicity and socioeconomics are no longer the obstacles they once were, he said.

Advocacy groups had been putting pressure on Obama to nominate a minority to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring Justice David Souter.

Minorities on the court have been rare in its 220-year history. All but two of the 110 justices have been men, and only two of them have not been white, according to CNN's political unit.

Ramirez said Latino people have been waiting a long time for a person of Latino descent to be nominated to the court.

But he said he's so excited now that the wait doesn't seem to matter.

"It's here! It is the right nominee. It is a woman who will make this country and the U.S. Supreme Court proud, so I'm not going to ask whether it was a long time coming," he said. "I'm just glad that it is here."

David Perez, a 23-year-old student at Yale Law School, where Sotomayor attended, said many people in the Hispanic community feel such excitement about the nomination that they're almost numb.

"People are going to remember where they were when they heard about this nomination," he said.

The nomination also makes the court a more accurate reflection of America's racial demographics, Ramirez said.

Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States, and their presence is expected to continue to grow. About 12.5 percent of people in the

United States were Hispanic in the 2000 Census, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By mid-century, Hispanic people will make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, the bureau estimates.

Sotomayor's nomination "helps to create a tapestry of this country that is very reflective of the people who live in it," Ramirez said.

Latinos are inspired by the fact that someone of their ethnic group is being portrayed in such a positive light, said Anne Guarnera, spokeswoman for the Hispanic College Fund.

Sotomayor will inspire young Latinas to chase their dreams, she said.

"I think her cultural background does give her an advantage in being a role model for these students," she said. "It's, in a way, redeeming or affirming to see someone who looks like you succeeding in the public sphere."

Lopez, the college student in Texas, said she always thought her dream of becoming a prominent Latina attorney was possible. But Sotomayor's nomination serves as proof, she said.

"It's always better when there's precedent and you feel that someone else has been able to do it; I can do it, too," she said.

Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I smell re-election in 2012.

    May 26, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. jason007thomas

    Maybe now we can finnaly get some one to deal with imagration in a fair and balanced and comprehencive way instead of a bunch of rednecks sitin at the border with shotguns preying for a reason to shot somebody!!!

    May 26, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. fella from Chicago

    Davey Crockett and Jim Bowie must be turning over in their graves. Never would have thunk it, huh guys?

    May 26, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Lori

    As they should. Us, women, are rejoicing too.

    May 26, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Maggie from Virginia

    Congratulations to all my Latin brothers and sisters. Yes We Can!

    May 26, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. Hispanic in Austin

    Where was the Hispanic support as well as the democrat support when President Bush nominated Miguel Estrada? Does anyone remember how the racist democrats shot his nomination to the Court of Appeals down with a filibuster? Where was all the adoration for the "Hispanic Experience" back then? This nomination of Sotomayor only serves to score political points with liberals because it makes them feel warm and fuzzy about themselves.

    May 26, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. KLK

    I'm not Latino, but I'm proud too. This is a great choice.

    May 26, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. RR

    how long before anyone who opposes Sotomayor's confirmation is called a racist?

    May 26, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Kelby In Houston, TX

    I demand that everybody feel the love....I DEMAND IT!!!

    May 26, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. Obama Victim

    let's review..............Latinos happy a Latino is chosen......racist???

    May 26, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Tarheel

    Open the floodgates. We just inherited another 40 million "citizens" from our neighbor from the South of the Border. Why don't we just go ahead and annex them and get it over with?

    May 26, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. Sharon Kitchen

    I am Native American and I am very proud that Obama choose an outstanding female /Latino Sup Crt judge pick.

    May 26, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. Veronica

    As a latin woman,Im very proud of Obamas choice...

    ladies.....YES WE CAN

    May 26, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. smac

    Hispanic in Austin,

    Take some time and think of how great this moment is, you cannot say that President Obama is trying to score points. He unlike the Repub's believes in and embraces diversity .

    May 26, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. Irma in North Carolina

    Yes this was an excellent choice. If the republicans go against this I hope and pray they will get no spanish votes in the next election and I sure the women will think the same. The republicans should remember this past election when they put Sarah out there thinking they would get all the Hillary voters. Well the American people showed them that Sarah was no Hillary and never will be. The president wins on this one either way.

    May 26, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  16. Brian A

    Looks like Obama just secured the Hispanic and women voting blocks even more so for 2012 re-election. What are the Republican going oto do now, hmm? Sarah Palin will start calling herself Senorita Palino? Ha!

    May 26, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me err...

    Congratulations to the country in general, and especially the Latino community, on this nomination of Judge Sotomayor. I did not immediately grasp what a big moment this is to the Latino community until I read this post. But being a minority myself (African), it hit home. It now dawns on me how incredibly monumental this must be to the Latino community, and by extension, all other minorities and the nation at large!

    Good job Mr President!
    Congratulations Judge Sotomayor!

    May 26, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. mary

    Umm, Hispanic in Austin, Estrada did not have democratic support because he was an ULTRA conservative appointee. He also would not release previous writings during vetting (why???) and did not have any judicial bench experience. I am happy he withdrew his name from nomination. I am also very, very happy Sotomayor has been nomination. She's a fantastic candidate.

    May 26, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  19. GOP Disaster

    To my Latino Brother and Sister this is a great day.

    May 26, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Vive Sotomayor!

    May 26, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. faithplusnothing

    It's her qualifications that count. I don't care if she is orange with black stripes.

    May 26, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  22. hispanic woman

    Again, Sotomayor is not the first Hispanic to be nominated to the Supreme Court, President Hoover nominated Benjamin Cardozo in 1932 and therefore he was the FIRST HISPANIC to sit on the Supreme Court...

    In my view, Obama wants to get credit for "being the first President" to nominate the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court...

    I am a proud Latina as well but I do not support Sotomayor's liberal views...NEVER!

    May 26, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. C. Alexander Brown, Canada

    Hello Yankees!! Madame Sotomayor was obviously appointed on merit, of which experience and background were contributing factors. Ethnicity was secondary to all of this. These comments from whatever perspective, plus what I am reading and hearing elsewhere, confirms to me that your President is a smart man, and a wise one too. You are enormously lucky to have someone of this calibre leading your nation at this difficult time. I congratulate (and thank) you, my beloved American neighbours, for electing him.

    May 26, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  24. Al-NY,NY

    Obama has boxed in the Greedy Old (white man) Party with this nomination. Although not as liberal as he could have made the nominee, a Hispanic woman covers 2 key demographics that the tightie righties wish they could include. They are going to criticize until these 2 groups say enough is enough. That will leave Republicans with: white, rich, Christians.....lotsa luck GOP

    May 26, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  25. Tyrone Brown

    Much to celebrate!

    A very proud day for our country!

    Thank you, President Barack Obama.

    May 26, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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