Celina’s Pride

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Originally written in 2009 when President Barack Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, I haven’t shared this piece until now.  What better way to celebrate Sonia Sotomayor’s 9th year of serving the people of the United States then to recall the many unsung she-roes this country is built on.

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So many emotions…

I watched with pride as Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in as the first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I felt quite proud of her success and what it will mean to so many little girls - especially little Puerto Rican girls – all over the world, for generations to come.  I felt a rush of emotion as I recognized this appointment will become another example that our children can relate to. It will remind them that they can do anything, they can BE anything. I was disheartened that the media seemed surprised that a poor Puerto-Rican girl could rise to a seat on the highest court of the most powerful country in the world.  However, I felt thrilled that Sonia’s appointment dominated the media and drowned out the rare but somehow more publicized stories of failure in our communities. 

Nevertheless, it was watching Celina Sotomayor stand next to her baby girl, holding her Bible, taking in such a historic moment that brought tears to my eyes.

I believe Sonia’s staggering success would not be possible if it were not for Celina.   Celina’s pride felt palpable, and somehow manifested in the tears she shed as she watched her daughter stand beside the President of the United States, addressing the world as the first Latina to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is both ordinary AND extraordinary!   Another example of how - - in her own words - - “an ordinary person who has been given extraordinary opportunities can achieve amazing success”.

A descendant of immigrants who through the example of hard work and perseverance achieved the American dream.  In her first address to the world, Sonia shared exactly what we needed. Her message warrants repeating and amplifying.  Sonia attributed her success to the greatest role model in her life, her mother, Celina, who despite the loss of her husband, left with two young children, persevered against these unfortunate odds. Celina often worked multiple jobs to support Sonia and her brother Juan after their father died.

Think about what that meant. Here was a mother that could have given up. She could have lost hope. Instead, she worked not only one, but two jobs to keep her family together.

Celina Sotomayor’s story is not unique. Celina’s story may seem unusual but to me and to many others, it mirrors our own story.  So many of us have similar stories, come from similar backgrounds, have overcome similar circumstances. Our mothers broke their backs to make a way out of no way. I do not recall my own mother ever working less than two jobs.  The Celina’s of the world do what they must to protect their babies.  There are many mothers out there doing similar extraordinary things to save their families. Let us remember and honor them today.

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“I stand on the shoulders of countless people, yet there is one extraordinary person who is my life inspiration.  That person is my mother Celina Sotomayor.  I have often said that I am all that I am because of her and I am only half the woman she is.”

- Sonia Sotomayor, United States Supreme Court.

Copyright © 2009 by Valerie Rainford. All Rights Reserved