Wise Latinas are celebrating the Senate confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor 68 to 31 to the United States Supreme Court. But this is a moment of pride for all Americans.
It shows that no matter your class, race or ethnicity, if you work hard one can aspire to the highest court in the land.
But let me explain why Judge Sotomayor means so much to Latina women like myself.
It is in part her personal story, daughter of Puerto Ricans, raised in the Bronx, who goes on to succeed at Ivy League schools and defy the odds against her.
How hard was it for her to defy these odds? Here are some sobering facts about Latina women in the United States:
More than 50 percent of Latinas have their first child before the age
of 20. This is twice the national average, according to the National
Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Latina girls have the highest high school drop our rates in the nation, reports show.
Almost 24 percent of Latina women live in poverty, according to census data.
The most common occupation for Latinas is in office and administrative
support or blue-collar jobs, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
In the media, especially television and movies, we are defined by these
statistics and often portrayed as sexy sluts or as uneducated maids and
So to see Sotomayor break the statistical odds and show her composure
and intelligence during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings makes
her story an inspiration to Latinas around the country.
Still, I know plenty of Latinas like Sotomayor who are lawyers,
teachers, business women and journalists, who also defy all these
stereotypes and statistics.
"Many Latinas have a heart wrenching story, just as Judge Sotomayor's,
and many of them have achieved professional success, but it is not
recognized," said Enriqueta Rodriguez Bauer, who runs her own business,
Cultural Communications, in Chicago. "I hope the nation will begin to
notice there are many of us who are professional women, and who are
helping this country be a better country."
Bauer created an online project called Inteligencia Latina (Latina
Intelligence) to collect the opinions of wise Latinas around the
country and she's also selling T-shirts that say "Wise Latina."
"To me, being a wise Latina means I don't have to be a sexy, "spicy"
Latina or a matronly woman with ten kids running around. What other
dominant images are there of Latinas in U.S. culture? Oh, a gangbanger.
I'm not one of those either," commented Marisa Rodriguez of Chicago at
Inteligencia Latina. "Anyway, to me, being a wise Latina means I don't
have to wear as much lipstick as those three prototypes wear and I can
still qualify as Latina. I can and do lead with my brain and not with
my reproductive organs."
Sotomayor's success is an inspiration for all Latinas, especially those
of us working against the stereotypes and defying the odds.
In the same way the election of Barack Obama as president of the United
States held historic meaning for African-Americans, the confirmation of
Sotomayor is a watershed moment for the Latino community in the United
Our country's ability to break through a color barrier with Obama's
election was celebrated by Americans from all races and ethnicities. So
too should Sotomayor's nomination be celebrated. It means as a nation
we are marching towards equality.
I am confident Sotomayor will apply justice equally and fairly for all Americans.