When I heard that Obama had picked a woman as a nominee for Supreme Court justice , who is also - *gasp* - a Latina, I knew we were in for the old Horatio Alger story.
She was “a child with dreams,” as she once said, the little girl who learned at 8 that she had diabetes, who lost her father when she was 9, who devoured Nancy Drew books and spent Saturday nights playing bingo, marking the cards with chickpeas, in the squat red brick housing projects of the East Bronx.There was something of a pioneer spirit among the Puerto Ricans who settled into the East Bronx after braving tenements farther south or poverty back on the island. To settle into the Bronxdale Houses, as Sonia Sotomayor’s family ultimately did in the 1960s, was to find a haven of sorts, according to people who lived there then.While her husband worked at a tool-and-die factory, Celina Sotomayor — by all accounts the driving force in her daughter’s life — went on to become a telephone operator at Prospect Hospital, a small private hospital in the South Bronx, and later received her practical nurse’s license. The family’s life was upended when Sonia’s father died at 42, in part from heart complications that had kept him out of the Army. Celina Sotomayor, a widow with two young children and no savings, began working six days a week.Roman Catholic schools of that era were embraced by many working-class Puerto Rican parents who saw the public schools as too rowdy and dangerous. The Sotomayor family, which is Catholic, was among them. Judge Sotomayor attended Cardinal Spellman High School in the Northeast Bronx, which opened in 1959 and earned a reputation as a school for high achievers. She graduated as valedictorian in 1972.
And two years later, in 1974, I entered Cardinal Spellman as a freshman.
You have to expect the journalists at The New York Times to gush about such "ethnic" backgrounds because I suspect few of them have been to the Bronx beyond the Zoo and Yankee Stadium, and anyone raised in other than private schools on the Upper East Side seems "brave" and had "defied the odds."
But I find it funny that people want to portay Sotomayor as this anomaly coming from poverty . . . because, in reality, she really is not. And I can say that because from all accounts that I have read, Sonia Sotomayor and I have very similar backgrounds.
The Bronx was a different place in the 60's. The fact that Sotomayor lived in an apartment building (put two together and give it a common name and voila - it's a housing project) as so many people did in the Bronxdale section (which is not the burned out South Bronx that Hollywood likes to use as representative of all the Bronx) tells me that she had a middle class upbringing, albeit lower middle class . . . just like me. It is sad that she lost her father at an early age and her mother had to work six days a week . . . not just like me. But my father worked two jobs and my mother worked full-time to feed us three kids. I read in the article that later the family moved to Co-Op City in the 70's, which again tells me, things were not so dire in the Sotomayor household.
I don't hide my roots. In fact, I am pretty proud of them, as I am sure is Judge Sotomayor. But let's not put the gloss on where none is warranted. I remind the livberal press that there is a true "hard luck" story on the bench, one about a child growing up under oppressive laws and in true poverty . . . but no one wants to talk about Clarence Thomas, do they?