For Latino Activists, Sotomayor Confirmation Is Emotional Moment

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 2009

At a "vote watch" party held by Latino activists at a hotel bar a few blocks from the Capitol, news of the final Senate tally clinching Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court set off whoops and cheers, followed by sustained chants of "Sí, se puede! Sí, se puede!" and "Sonia! Sonia!"

"It's something you cannot even explain -- how proud and how emotional a moment this is for us," said Vanny Marrero, 72, a retired government human resources worker from Northern Virginia who belongs to the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women.

Melody Gonzalez, 29, a staffer on the Hill who co-founded a grass-roots volunteer group called the New Latino Movement, milled through the crowd sporting a wide grin and a purple T-shirt printed with the words "Wise Latina."

"Can you imagine the message this is sending to all the women of the United States?" she said. "Sonia Sotomayor is a symbol of what one can do with the power of education. That as women and as Latinas, we can aspire to the highest levels of achievement that our country has to offer."

But like several others in the group at the Washington Court Hotel, Lucy Flores, 29, a third-year law student from Las Vegas, said the fact that Sotomayor is considered exceptional points to the work that still lies ahead. "This shows me that we have to continue fighting for equality and educational opportunities," she said. "It shouldn't be a historic moment. Everyone of all races and all backgrounds should be able to get to where she is based on their ability and their desire."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company