Latina Magazine on Sonia Sotomayor

Her Honor: A Portrait of Justice Sonia Sotomayor

America has never before met a wise Latina like Sonia Sotomayor. Latina contributor and former Editor-in-Chief Sandra Guzmán offers the first glimpse of the woman behind the robe in this exclusive profile of the newly minted Supreme Court justice.

Here is an excerpt from this fascinating story:

I first met Sonia in 1998, after she had been sworn in as a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I was the Editor-in-Chief of Latina, and a mutual friend, New York attorney Lee Llambelis, suggested that Sotomayor was someone I should meet since I’d probably want to write an article on her (which appeared in our March 1999 issue). Sotomayor’s life story not only inspired readers, but also captivated me.

Since then, we’ve been to each other’s homes for dinner and shared many sweet, honest and confidential conversations. A doting hostess, she puts together cheese platters, makes tasty salads and hooks up a mean churrasco with a tangy lemon marinade. This past spring, she promised to share some of her culinary secrets, so we set a date to fire up the grill in her small yet superb two-bedroom condo in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village. Sonia thought things would finally slow down for her by the summer—but that’s when things really started heating up.

During those grueling confirmation hearings in July, Republican senators Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions and Jon Kyl dissected her now-famous “wise Latina” phrase, uttered during an inspirational lecture to Latino law students at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 2001.

The senators aggressively argued that her remarks proved she would bring bias and a liberal agenda to the bench. But Sotomayor repeatedly explained that her comments were part of a regrettable “rhetorical flourish that fell flat.” “I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt: I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging,” she said. She added that she was simply trying “to inspire young Hispanics, Latino students and lawyers to believe that their life experiences added value to the process.’’

As the new personification of an intellectual rock star, Sotomayor has been inundated with interview requests—from Vogue to Newsweek, El País to Le Monde. But the new justice has yet to agree to a sit-down, aside from one she granted C-Span for a documentary on the Supreme Court. When I asked about a formal interview for this magazine, she told me, “I am not doing interviews and have said no to everyone. I do not want to be seen as having favorites.”

She did, however, agree to have her portrait taken for the cover and inside pages. And she went as far as granting me her blessing: “You will have to write based on our history together.”

And that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Sonia Maria Sotomayor, born in the South Bronx on June 25, 1954, is the oldest child of Celina Baez and Juan Sotomayor, two puertorriqueños who migrated to New York City in the 1940s in search of the American Dream. Reared in the Bronxdale housing projects, she’s a red lipstick–wearing Cancer who loves the Yankees and is credited with saving baseball by putting an end to a 232-day Major League Baseball strike in 1995.

After excelling at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, she graduated with the highest academic honors (summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society) from Princeton University. She went on to Yale Law School and served as an editor on the prestigious Yale Law Journal. For nearly five years, she worked as a young prosecutor under iconic Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau. She practiced international business law in private practice for another nearly eight years. For the last 17 years, she served on the federal bench, first on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and most recently as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She represents many legal firsts, such as being the first person appointed to judicial posts by three U.S. presidents from two different parties (presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama)….

One evening this past spring, as we prepared dinner for a group of friends, I asked her for some advice. She listened closely as I relayed my marital problems. I still recall her words, which I carry in my heart to this day. She told me that we have been wrongfully taught the Cinderella fairy tale as a paradigm of what happy relationships are supposed to be. And when we fall short of that, we suffer for it. To find happiness in love, she said, we have to make up our own rules. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. The process may involve unlearning what we have been taught and then figuring out what makes us happy. There are all types of relationships and arrangements to choose from. Of course, the trick is finding a companion who shares those values.

Love is not the only area where Justice Sotomayor has faced her fears and worked her way through them. Even as recently as April, she had doubts about her potential rise to the Supreme Court. She had been on President Clinton’s Supreme Court short list, but no seats became vacant. When Obama won the White House, the legal world hedged their bets on the brilliant judge with the impeccable résumé. But weeks before Obama made public his pick to replace Souter, Sotomayor called her confidante and good friend Llambelis, telling her that she wanted to pull her name from consideration.

“You have to understand that Sonia is a very private person,” Llambelis explains. “She didn’t want to go through another public vetting process and a potential public dressing-down by those on the Republican right who opposed her nomination. Sonia was happy being a Federal Appeals judge, loved her life in New York and felt fulfilled. She worried about having less time to spend with her mother, family and friends, particularly given her mom’s age and potential health complications.” Llambelis recalls listening to her friend, whose “I can” mantra was being drowned out by last-minute uncertainty. She told her to think beyond herself. “At this point, this is not about you,” Llambelis said to her. “It’s about little girls and boys, brown and black, who live in the projects and in poor communities around our nation, who can dream bigger if you are in the Supreme Court. You cannot back down now.” Sotomayor promised to think about it overnight. And in the morning, she woke up with a lighter heart and a bigger purpose.

In her short tenure so far on the court, the justice we have witnessed is no shrinking violet. She asks tough questions and is not intimidated by her rookie status. Sotomayor’s charm and confidence surprise very few people who know her, including the man who nominated her. While President Obama’s staff was preparing Sotomayor for the confirmation hearings in a White House office called the War Room, the team covered all the potentially explosive questions and briefed her on every minute detail, including how to dress for the cameras. They even advised her to keep her nails a neutral shade, which she did. But on the day of the White House reception celebrating her appointment, Sotomayor asked the president to look at her freshly manicured nails, holding up her hands to show off her favorite fire engine–red hue. The president chuckled, saying that she had been warned against that color.

She sure had, but Sotomayor was not finished. She then pulled her hair back behind her ears, exposing her red and black semi-hoop earrings, a beloved accessory among Latinas across America—from the South Bronx to Houston to East Los Angeles.

Obama joked that she had been briefed on the size of the earrings as well. Without skipping a beat, Sotomayor replied: “Mr. President, you have no idea what you’ve unleashed.” He responded, “Justice: I know and remember it’s a lifetime appointment. And I and no one can take it back.” And that, as they say, is the final verdict.

To read the rest of this story, pick up the December/January issue of Latina, on newsstands Nov. 17.

from Latina by Shani Saxon-Parrish, “Her Honor: A Portrait of Justice Sonia Sotomayor”

Latina Magazine on Sonia Sotomayor

Having Just Finished Writing an Overdue Essay…

In the middle of “Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend” I’m reminded of la Judy’s mindbug that has kept me chuckling and ill at ease with all the leather around me this weekend in D.C. in the throes of the Haitian disaster: “It’s not just the norm of heterosexuality that is tenuous. It’s all sexual norms. I think that every sexual position is fundamentally comic. If you say ‘I can only desire X,’ what you’ve immediately done, in rendering desire exclusively, is created a whole set of positions which are unthinkable from the standpoint of …your identity. Now, I take it that one of the essential aspects of comedy emerges when you end up actually occupying a position that you have just announced to be unthinkable. That is funny.” –Fun from “la Judy” (i.e., la camarera, not the the Garland).

Having Just Finished Writing an Overdue Essay…

Haitian Embassy Drive Now!

L’union fait la force! It’s been a long day: 01/17/10 Survival Kit Drive at Embassy of Haiti in D.C. and itemization drive at 10:30 a.m. on 01/18/10. Volunteers still needed, meet me at 2311 Massachusetts. Ave., N.W.Washington, DC 20008. Coffee and good will await:

From the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (NOAH) ***SURVIVAL KIT DRIVE*** NOAH will be conducting a Survival Kit Drive THIS Sunday, January 17, 2010 from 11am – 4pm at the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti in Washington D.C. located at 2311 Massachusetts Avenue NW. In appreciation of your assistance light refreshments will be available. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact (718.755.0119) or (202.904.9070). Below are a list of items needed immediately. Many can be found at your local dollar store or even the One Spot in your local Target. Please spread the word to all because a MAJOR group effort is needed to get Haiti through this. I appreciate and thank your help and support. ITEMS BEING COLLECTED:
Baby formula (dry/powder)
Baby wipes Baby bottles
Diapers Baby clothes
Toiletries (shampoo, soap, toothpaste)
Hand sanitizer
First aid kits
Over the counter medicines
Mosquito repellent
Flashlights Batteries
Candles Flip flops
T-shirts Pants
Lightweight jackets
Non perishable food that’s not in cans (seal-paks of tuna or sardines, for example)
Think flat, lightweight, easily packable. Remember, L’union fait la force! ***PLEASE FORWARD!!!***

Haitian Embassy Drive Now!

Texas Board of Ed. Attempting to Erase Cesar Chavez from Textbooks

César Chávez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993)

From Mariela Rosario

Gail Lowe, a staunch Republican and right-wing ideologue, hired a panel of “experts” to review the curriculum after being appointed last summer by Gov. Rick Perry to chair the Texas State Board of Education. One of them suggested removing Cesar Chavez, arguably the most important Latino civil rights leader of the 20th century, from the social studies books, stating that Chavez, “lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others” and that he should not be “held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.”

Lowe’s review was sparked by complaints by Board members and their appointees about an “over representation of minorities” in the current social studies curriculum. The whole situation is hysterically ironic given the fact that the majority of children in the public school system in the state of Texas are Latino. But apparently, for the Texas school board, Chavez and the one other Latina currently mentioned—Irma Rangel, the first Hispanic woman elected to the state Legislature—are just too much.

Texas Board of Ed. Attempting to Erase Cesar Chavez from Textbooks

Nativist Vigilantes Adopt ‘Patriot’ Movement Ideas

Nativist Vigilantes Adopt ‘Patriot’ Movement Ideas
By David Holthouse


Camp Vigilance, Calif. — A call to arms from ResistNet blares through this makeshift camp near the small community of Boulevard: “We all know what happens when you back an animal into a corner — it fights back. The way I see it, that’s exactly the direction this country is heading. They’re backing us into a corner. It’s getting to be time to fight back.”

Located two-and-a-half miles north of Mexico in the high, rugged desert of unincorporated eastern San Diego County, Camp Vigilance, known colloquially as “Camp V,” is a sizable Minuteman border vigilante compound situated amidst 170 privately owned acres.

Adjacent to active human and narcotics smuggling corridors, Camp V consists of roughly 100 tent camping sites, a half dozen or so full RV docking bays, a bunkhouse, a radio communications center, a mess hall and meeting grounds, all within a gated and well-guarded security perimeter.

On this night in late May, a dozen or so Minutemen are checking their weapons, testing batteries in their night-vision goggles and thermal-vision scopes, donning body armor and making other preparations for sundown-to-sunup reconnaissance patrols. A public address system plugged into a massive RV amplifies ResistNet, an Internet radio program broadcast by the Patriot Network, which promotes conspiracy theories and right-wing antigovernment militancy. Since the beginning of this year, ResistNet and other Patriot Network programs have become quite popular at Camp V, as well as other remote Minuteman outposts in southern California and Arizona.

The broadcast continues: “I can see the true American patriots are being backed into a corner. They’re getting ready to strike back at their captors, the greedy, evil vipers in the high offices of this land.”

Such exhortations have little to do with border security or undocumented immigration, the issues that launched the original Minuteman Project in 2005 and inspired its many spin-offs, imitators and splinter factions. Instead, the antigovernment screed ringing through Camp V represents a significant, ongoing shift in the nativist vigilante subculture, as major elements of various Minuteman organizations appear to be morphing into a new paramilitary wing of the resurgent antigovernment “Patriot” movement.
Waterboarding for the movemement: In a recent exercise, militia members and others trained in resisting interrogation.

Increasingly, Minutemen are giving credence to the sort of fringe conspiracy theories that have long typified militia and other so-called Patriot groups. Although the Minuteman movement from its inception has been permeated with the Aztlan or “reconquista” conspiracy theory — which holds that the Mexican government is driving illegal immigration into the U.S. as part of a covert effort to “reconquer” the American Southwest — the conspiracy theories that are now taking root in the movement have little or nothing to do with border security or immigration. They include the belief that a massive cover-up has been conducted regarding Barack Obama’s birth certificate, which supposedly shows that he was born in Africa and is therefore ineligible to serve as president of the United States.

At several eastern San Diego County vigilante camps in mid-May, there were serious discussions about the global banking system being controlled by an ancient secret society called the Illuminati. Another theory floated involved a cult devoted to the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Osiris, operating within the NASA space agency and perhaps arranging with extraterrestrials for a hostile takeover of Earth.

Further indicating the nativist-to-Patriot drift of the Minutemen is the fact that in recent months a number of Minuteman factions have begun promoting the ideology of so-called “sovereign citizens,” a bizarre pseudo-legal philosophy whose adherents claim they’re not U.S. citizens and are not subject to federal or state laws, only to “common law courts” — a sort of people’s tribunal with no judges or lawyers. The most notorious advocates of sovereign citizens ideology include Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and members of the now defunct Montana Freemen, a violent militia outfit. The larger Patriot movement is made up of tax protesters, militia members and sovereign citizens.

Accompanying the rise of conspiracy theories and sovereign citizen ideology within the Minuteman movement has been a spike in online and campfire chatter about the potential need for armed insurrection in the near future. This trend toward contemplated violence was most graphically illustrated by the May 30 home invasion murders of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter in Arivaca, Ariz., that were allegedly orchestrated by the leader of Minutemen American Defense to fund her group’s vigilante activities.

All of these disturbing nativist-to-Patriot trends have taken shape during a period in which, by all indications, the number of Latino immigrants attempting to cross the U.S. border has dropped to record lows, due in large part to the country’s faltering economy. According to a June report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the number of U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions fell to 724,000 last year. That marked the lowest level since 1973 and a decline of more than 50% from 2000, when apprehensions peaked at 1.67 million.

Despite this marked drop in undocumented border crossings, however, the number of Minuteman border operations, paramilitary training exercises and rallies continues to increase, and new Minuteman groups continue to form. What’s changed is that instead of focusing exclusively on undocumented immigration, growing numbers of Minutemen and their fellow travelers now perceive immigration as merely a glaring symptom of a much broader problem. The larger problem, they believe, involves shadowy conspiracies threatening American sovereignty, unwelcome demographic changes polluting American culture, and a potentially totalitarian government, driven by an illegitimate president, bent on seizing all firearms, trampling the Constitution and imposing a fascist-socialist system on a pathetically docile citizenry.

“We’re still concerned about the border intruders, but since this all started we’ve become aware of the fact that border intruders are just pawns in the big game,” says “Jawbone,” a member of the Campo Minutemen, a particularly hard-core faction based a few miles east of Camp V. “Stopping the border intruders isn’t going to keep the shit from hitting the fan. If and when it does, we’ll be ready. All this [Minuteman border operations] is just a dress rehearsal for the big dance.”

One of the leaders of the Campo Minutemen, Britt “Kingfish” Craig, recently appeared on “Patriot’s Pipeline Radio Show” along with co-guest Lloyd Marcus, the singer-songwriter responsible for “Tea Party Anthem,” a protest ditty written for the “tea party” tax protests that took place across the country April 15.

“Tea Party Anthem” has become the Campo Minutemen fight song. Most of its members know at least the first verse by heart: “Mr. President! Your stimulus is sure to bust./It’s just a socialist scheme./The only thing it will do/Is kill the American Dream.”

As part of their campaign to stop President Obama from killing the American Dream, various Minuteman groups, including the Campo Minutemen, are distributing a sovereign citizen “criminal complaint petition” demanding that Obama appear before an “American Grand Jury” to answer charges of treason.

Hundreds of Minutemen signed the petition at a large Minuteman “muster,” or rally, in Cochise County, Ariz., in late May. More than a dozen Minuteman organizations were represented at the rally, along with members of the Arizona Citizens Militia, a traditional Patriot militia that regularly conducts armed survivalist training exercises in the mountains and woods of northern Arizona. During one recent exercise, members were “waterboarded” by a “professional interrogator.”

Also present at the Cochise County muster were members of Minuteman American Defense (MAD), the Everett, Wash.-based group led by Shawna Forde, who was arrested less than a month later in the May 30 double murder in Arivaca, Ariz. Also arrested were MAD Operations Director Jason Bush and a third MAD member. According to law enforcement authorities, the three believed the man they killed was a narcotics trafficker who kept large sums of money in his trailer.

Forde’s half-brother, Merill Metzger, told the Arizona Daily Star that shortly before the murders Forde started talking about forming an “underground militia” that would be funded by robbing drug dealers. “She was talking about starting a revolution against the United States government,” he said.

Following her arrest, Forde was denounced by key Minuteman leaders including Jeff Schwilk, head of the San Diego Minutemen, a hard-line group with a well-deserved reputation for confrontational tactics. The fact that a hothead like Schwilk has become a de facto spokesman for the Minuteman movement indicates how radicalized the movement has become since its early days of media-friendly publicity stunts involving retirees sitting in lawn chairs armed only with binoculars.

In a mid-April mass E-mail to followers, Schwilk linked his group’s resistance to “the invasion from Mexico” with the greater cause of thwarting the “socialist takeover” of America. In the same E-mail, Schwilk announced the formation of the Patriot Coalition, made up of 23 organizations including Minuteman factions, tax-protest groups, pro-gun rights groups and two anti-immigration outfits listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A subsequent press release described the common cause of the groups under the motto, “Secure Borders, Constitution and Rule of Law.” It stated that “Patriotic and Constitutional American grassroots groups” had come together to “fight the growing threats to our region and to the taxpaying American citizens.”

It used to be that Minutemen declared their vigilance against foreign invaders. Now they’re taking a stand against perceived enemies both foreign and domestic. “Revolution is brewing!” Schwilk declared.

Nativist Vigilantes Adopt ‘Patriot’ Movement Ideas