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. Josh in TN

    I am not hispanic. I am American. My ancestry is of African origin. I am very happy for my hispanic brothers and sisters. May God Bless America.

    May 26, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  2. The People Rule

    Personally, I think it should have been Michelle Obama, but I'm happy with his pick. I'm sure she will do well. And if she has a mouth like Judge Judy, then maybe things will liven up and the Justices won't look so zombie like in their photographs. 🙂

    May 26, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. Ms. Dee, Texas

    fella from Chicago 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?

    It would be nice if the Republicans stop living in the past, drudging up old republican terroist from yesteryears. It is a brand new day, a brand new hour.

    Change has come and CONTINUES to come to America.

    America, America God sheds His grace on THEE!

    May 26, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  4. lovable liberal

    Thirty-plus Republicans will vote against this nomination. Hispanics will not forget at the polls. The GOP is going to vote itself out of existence one day soon.

    May 26, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. Tom

    Maybe we should divy up the Supreme Court seats by percentage of race and gender?

    Probably for the Senate and House elections, too. Maybe blacks should vote for blacks to represent them, Latinos vote for latinos, whites for the white representatives, etc.

    Then, no one can complain that their race isn't represented.

    I mean, its not a person's ideals, beliefs, and actions that matter, right? Just their skin color

    May 26, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  6. Simmy

    Hispanic in Austin,

    Was Estrada shot down because of his race, or was it his qualifications?
    I Applaud the nomination of Sotomayor.......But consider that there are Native Americans in this country that have no one to lobby for them.......I chose to do so.....

    We' ve come a long way, but we still a long way to go.......Thank God the glass ceiling is being cracked.......It's time for a Native American to take center stage in America......They were here first.....Why are they always last?........There is a Great Book that says '...The last shall be first.'

    May 26, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |

    Not only is this nominee good for latinos, she is good for America. We are truly a diverse people, and that should be evidenced by our judges on our courts. It is too bad that repubs won't accept that, and will not be doing the right thing. She is qualified and should be easily confirmed, but my gut tells me she is in for a fight which will come from the party of no probably. Spineless dems could also be her downfall (since we never know what they are up to). Unfortunately, as a lifelong dem, I know that they are not known for their bravery in the congress.

    May 26, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Adele

    This is a great day for all, men and women, Latino and others.

    May 26, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. David from St. Louis

    A proud day for anyone who believes all people are created equal and should have equal opportunities based on their merit. Only in America!

    May 26, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  10. Lone Star Wolf

    Why is this going to get them more welfare. If it does then there'll be no more Democrats in the White House. There is just so much we can give away to the non-paying citizens South of the Border. In my town we just had one of them gun toting latinos helping himself to more welfare from an 80 year old woman holding his pistol on her until she emptied her purse. I wish all these politicians had to live next to and with them. Then maybe they'll underestand in short time there will not be America just an extension of Mexico who will stand up for nobodys rights and the constitution will fade away. The Cowards.

    May 26, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. Tim

    And in the meantime, the Pentagon has acknowledged that 14% of released Gitmo detainees, those very detainees who were deemed the least risky to release amongst all detainees held at Gitmo, returned to the battlefield after their release.

    But don't worry, Obama has a plan.

    May 26, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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