Resident In Sotomayor's Old Bronx Apartment Feels Pride

In Apartment 2F of Building 24 in the Bronxdale housing projects, a single Puerto Rican mother's sacrifices meant her daughter could one day be nominated to become only the third woman in the nation's history, and the first Latina, to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

And the woman who now lives in Apartment 2F can't quite believe that the humble corner apartment in the Soundview neighborhood just north of the Bruckner Expressway was the childhood home of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, nominated to the high court by President Barack Obama.

"It's like the president living here when he was a child," said Nixa Vazquez, 64, a blade-factory worker whose life story struggling to raise her own two children in 2F is strikingly similar to that of the nominee and the nominee's mother, Celina Sotomayor.

Vazquez, who has lived there since about 1970, and Celina Sotomayor, who moved out a short time before, both were born in Puerto Rico. Like Celina, Vazquez holds a modest job and is working to raise two children in a fatherless household.

The White House nomination, Vazquez said, is a point of pride for people of Hispanic descent. "It feels good," she said. "I never expected it."

At Blessed Sacrament School, the Beach Avenue grammar school that is Sotomayor's alma mater, an administrator said the court nominee was a great student with a near-perfect attendance record.

That Celina sent young Sonia, now 54, to the Catholic school demonstrated "a true sense of commitment," said the administrator, Herminia Roman, a current assistant principal at the K-8 school.

Even back then, Roman said, tuition would have been difficult for a single mother to afford.

Vazquez said Sotomayor's historic nomination has been the buzz at her workplace and at the sprawling housing project -- places where talk about federal jurisprudence and presidential nominations are rarely topics.

"When I went to work this morning, I had a feeling that, what if that lady lived in my apartment," said Vazquez, who learned from reporters about her unit's famous residential predecessor. "I can't even believe that you're saying that she lived here."

Staff writer Matthew Chayes contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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