Is Sotomayor The First Hispanic Nominee?

It has nothing to do with golf, but as a political science/economics/history teacher, I just can’t let this one pass by. It’s being reported that Obama court nominee Sonia Sotomayer, if confirmed, would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

But the media is forgetting about Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who was on the court from 1932 to 1938. Depending upon your definition, Cardozo may very well have been the first Hispanic on the court

Cardozo was of Portuguese descent; his Jewish ancestors left the Iberian peninsula in the 1700s, presumably to escape persecution.

But are people of Portuguese descent Hispanic? That depends upon who you ask.

Historically, Hispanic refers to anyone from the Roman province of Hispania, which includes modern day Spain and Portugal.

The Census Bureau is not helpful in this definition, noting that people can self-identify themselves as Hispanic if their origin was ” Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or some other Hispanic origin.” In other words, you’re Hispanic if you say you are.

The Small Business Administration, the Department of Transportation and others are more specific: persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race.

The independent Latin American Trade Council includes Portuguese in its definition of Hispanic.

Note that none of this is intended to diminish Sotomayer … only the dimwitted and uninformed who report the “news.”

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