Shortly after watching Thursday’s historic confirmation of the nation’s first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court justice, college students Yonari Guzman and Marisol Montoya summed up their thoughts in three simple words.
“It’s just cool,” the two friends said as they munched on tortilla chips at Esmeralda’s Cafe on Charleston Boulevard near Maryland Parkway, where they joined about two dozen people who had gathered to see Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation on television.
“It’s cool that one of our kind, I guess you could say, is up there,” said Guzman, 20.
“It’s cool to have somebody there different than has ever been there before,” said Montoya, 21.
The local “watch party” was organized by Democracia Ahora — Democracy Now, a Hispanic advocacy organization — to celebrate the “first-ever Latina to serve on the court.”
Similar gatherings were held across the country.
“It’s a historic and inspiring moment for the Latino community,” said Marco Rauda, state director of the organization. “It shows us where hard work and determination can get us.”
The group applauded and cheered as it became clear Sotomayor had enough Senate votes to become the court’s third female justice.
“She went through so much and worked so hard,” said Isabel Bautista, a restaurant worker who watched the confirmation with her husband, Isidro Bautista. “As a Latina, I’m so proud that she made it all this way. It’s not just any job, it’s the Supreme Court. How wonderful!”
Montoya, who is on summer break from the University of Hawaii, where she studies political science, said she admired the way Sotomayor “stood up to intense grilling” during confirmation hearings.
“To see what she put up with and didn’t break, that was cool,” she said.
With her confirmation, Sotomayor has become a “major role model,” especially for Hispanic women, said Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics.
Her ascension from a hardscrabble childhood in a South Bronx housing project to a federal judgeship and, now, to the Supreme Court will inspire many, he said.
“Here’s a woman who worked diligently, brought herself up by her bootstraps and helped others along the way,” Romero said. “Seeing a Latina in such an important role speaks to young people. Seeing the image of somebody like you who made it means ‘I can do it too.’ “
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0285.