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. hispanic woman

    Hispanic in Austin May 26th, 2009 12:46 pm ET
    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.
    Amen! I love it!!!

    May 26, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. Mike TX

    The second paragraph in this article states that "when you're wanting to achieve something, it's truly possible, regardless of your background...". I find this comment to be absolutely true. And until the left stops their brand of racism (which is against whites, particulary males), race and gender will always be an issue. Congratulate the woman because she worked hard to get where she got, not because she's a woman or Hispanic. And if you support her because she's Hispanic, well don't be afraid to call that racism either.

    May 26, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. Claudia in Houson

    I am not a Latino, but I rejoice because this woman is more than qualified; gender or ethnic group doesn't matter to me. Great Choice.

    May 26, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. bob in LA

    Black,Grey, White,Gay, man woman- what doe it matter?
    I applaud a smart choice, not the person that looks and sounds like me.

    May 26, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  5. No more GOP!

    Im African-American and I think Judge Sotomayor is a great chioce. I think she has the proven record to handle the job with dignity, grace, level headed fairness and a clear view of the U.S. Constitution.

    May 26, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    @Lori: "Us, women, are rejoicing too"

    Sorry, women are not really allowed to give voice to their issues. It is all race now. Women's issue are SO last week (last decade?).

    Clue: This is sarcasm.

    May 26, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. Lynn

    Yes, we did!!

    May 26, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |

    hispanic in Austin...just be happy

    May 26, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  9. Dawn

    I am proud also!

    May 26, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  10. gt

    people are nuts , they dont know anything about her ,, only she is of latin heritage ..... so were the spanish who wiped out the aztecs...... get the facts first,,,,

    May 26, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. FORMER republican, NEVER again!

    Brilliant choice President Obama! Of course the rethugs won't like the fact that she is not white or a man but hey – who cares??

    May 26, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. Illinoisman

    What a bunch of hypocrits. You LOVE it when Obama nominates a hispanic but when Bush did it the Dems put a quash on it. I guess it wasnt historic when Bush did it only when the messiah nominates one. Why did she screw the white firefighters? RACISM but not called so by the left. She can make law now like she says the courts responsibility is.

    May 26, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. latins illegals rejoics

    Latins anticipate that all illegals will be welcome and that Spanish will become the national official language of the US. Only trouble here is that of the 58 million latin supporters, only 123 of them pay taxes

    May 26, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. Matthew

    I am not Latino. but I view this as a horrible choice anyway. For a judge to argue that gender and ethniciiity ought to be considered in a court proceeding is fundamentally the opposite of what our US constitution is all about. Justice is supposed to be blind to gender and ethnic background. This choice will set this nation back 40 years

    May 26, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  15. Matthew

    Davey Crockett was not a racist but this nominee is by her own words,,,,,, shameful

    May 26, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  16. Matthew

    I smell one and done for Obama as American Indpendents wake up to the fact that Obama does not know our Constitution, is weak on national security, has no clue on the economy, and is a soclialist much like Chavez of Venezuela

    May 26, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  17. Hispanic Republican in San Antonio

    As much as I would like to see a Hispanic on the high courth, this nominee is the wrong choice, She is a feminist activist and has a bias built in. she will be a disgrace to the high court, when she brings in gender and ethnic background and decides cases with these biases built in, and this will set hispanics back 50 years

    May 26, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. Turnabout is Fair Play

    President Obama made and excellent choice and I'm EXTREMELY proud of him for his selection. We need both a minority AND a woman all rolled up in one in the Supreme Court. I'm proud to be a democrat even more than when Prez. Obama was elected! 🙂

    Now watch the neo-con maggots come in here and start spewing their vile hatred..

    May 26, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. TCM

    It was absolutely the best FEMALE LATINO choice available....

    Was it the best choice overall? Absolutely not. However, it's Affirmative Action hard at work, to dumb down the United States into a 3rd world country, killing our competitive edge in the world...but hey, it's fair, right? Congrats Obama, for further showing your facist side, and your inexperience in one swoop.

    May 26, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  20. Jackie, NY

    jason007thomas, you are racist as well as Illiterate. God help us because you are now in the majority.

    May 26, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  21. BK

    Yes, I think we should all be proud that a woman that says she can make better decisions than a white male. This woman is a sexist and a racist. How dumb can you be?

    May 26, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. Enough

    It's ok to be racist as long as you're not WHITE!

    May 26, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  23. Justin

    My congrats. She must be very smart to get into one of the top law schools in the country, and she must have worked really hard to finish the program. On top of that, she has years of experience.

    Considering all of her circumstances (her working single mom, diabete, bilingual background), she is a role model for may people, not just for the hispanic community.

    May 26, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  24. Barry in MO

    May 26th, 2009 12:38 pm ET

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

    Not sure I understand what you mean here. Didn't they fight against Mexicans? Isn't Ms Sotomayor Puerto Rican? Also, do you mean that since we were at war with Italy in World War II that Scalia should be out due to his Italian heritage? Just wondering.

    If that is the case, well, we should get rid of anybody not a native of the American continents... that would leave most of us out of the running.

    May 26, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Marco

    To: Hispanic in Austin

    "Racist democrat" is an oxymoron....try again.......I think you know how....

    May 26, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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