“I adore her,” said Celina Sotomayor. “I can’t feel my body, that’s how proud I am of her.”
Sotomayor’s daughter Sonia became President Barack Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court on Tuesday and could be the first Hispanic ever to serve on the nation’s highest tribunal.
After the announcement, Spanish-language media immediately reflected gleeful reactions from many Hispanics.
One of them was the nominee’s mother –born in Lajas, Puerto Rico, in 1927–, who was interviewed on video by an El Diario/La Prensa reporter.
She narrated that, after her husband’s untimely death, she raised her children by working as a nurse.
“When my daughter left for Princeton, she told me, ‘Go to school’, and I went to Hostos Community College,” she said, where she obtained a nursing certificate.
Technically Celina and her husband — Puerto Ricans who moved to the U.S. mainland — were not immigrants — and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists pointed that out on a statement Tuesday.
(Sonia Sotomayor’s) Puerto Rican parents are not immigrants, as some journalists have reported, since island-born residents are U.S. citizens, conferred by an act of Congress in 1917.
People who move to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico are no more immigrants than those who move from Nebraska to New York.
But the nominee herself apparently sees her life experience, and that of her parents, as an immigrants’ tale.
In a 2001 lecture she gave at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law –reproduced Tuesday by The New York Times–, Judge Sotomayor portrayed herself as the child of an immigrant family.
Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful.
The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.
That identity –Latina in general, New York Puerto Rican in particular– is now a source of pride for many.
“We’re happy and honored,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. told Univision’s web site. “This is a person who comes from our neighborhood, a daughter of the borough, who serves as an example for our children, especially for our girls. Her mother sacrificed a lot, gave a lot of her time to educate her daughter.”
Diaz added that one of Sotomayor’s features is “she’s never denied that she comes from The Bronx. She never denies the reality that she comes from the projects, the same ones where I played as a kid. I feel extremely proud of her.”