On Sonia Sotomayor: Words from ‘Wise Latinas’

By Jorge Rivas Jul 20, 2009

The LA Times asked several successful Latinas to "assess" Sonia Sotomayor and the way Senators treated her during the Judicial Committee nominations hearings last week. All the woman surveyed had very poignant observations but I thought Josefina Lopez, author of the play/film "Real Women Have Curves", really put it out there:

"Many people seem to assume that because Sonia Sotomayor’s an ethnic woman, or because of the wise Latina comment, she’s going to be biased. That’s racist. They’re assuming they aren’t biased and that she is because she’s an ethnic person. All these white men who were on the Supreme Court for the first 200 years were supposed to be impartial and unbiased, but for 200 years they upheld laws that supported segregation and discrimination. You kind of have to laugh."

Rossana Rosado, Publisher of New York’s El Diario, was also surveyed and spoke from the heart.

"When I hear the phrase "wise Latina," I think of my mom, and I think of women like Sonia’s mom, whose story of triumph is amazing. It’s a story that is common to those of us who are from immigrant families. My parents, like Sonia Sotomayor’s, are from Puerto Rico, so technically they’re not immigrants, but it’s still the experience of moving to a new land and struggling against the odds so kids in the next generation can become newspaper publishers or judges. I’ve given a lot of thought to why the "wise Latina" speech caused such an uproar and how it plays to different audiences. Women in my professional and personal circles are busy ordering T-shirts and buttons with the phrase. We want to be wise Latinas."

I’ve always thought of my mother as the most open minded and wisest person I know, period. I’ve always thought that, in Sonia Sotoyomar’s words, "the richness of her experiences" was what lead her to better, more thoughtful conclusions than anybody else I know. What does a "wise Latina" mean for you?