D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - Because Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, Sonia Sotomayor's selection to join the Supreme Court is being called an important milestone for the Hispanic community. Hispanics everywhere were cheering Tuesday when President Obama named one of their own to serve on the high court.
Lillian Perez was one of the happy Hispanic Americans. Perez runs El Bosque Mexican Restaurant in D'Iberville. In the late 1980s, the Perez family brought its secret recipes from Toluca, Mexico to south Mississippi. Perez was just four years old at the time. Fifteen years later, Perez realized she wanted to become a U.S. citizen, so her voice could be heard. To Perez, American is "an opportunity."
When she got an opportunity to vote in November, the 24-year-old Hispanic woman voted for the African American candidate Barack Obama. Now, President Obama is giving Sonia Sotomayor the opportunity to be the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
"And this means a lot to all of us, being Latino and being women," she said. "But you can really connect with somebody who had many choices, and she came out on top."
What Perez likes so much about the Sotomayor selection is her upbringing. The restaurant manager sees a lot of herself in the Supreme Court nominee - and not just because they're both Hispanic.
"You can come from nothing. But if you make the right choices. And if you try hard and do what you've gotta do, you come out on top," Perez said.
The restaurant manager came to this country from Mexico and grew up in Bay St. Louis. Sotomayor was raised in a housing project in the Bronx. Perez considered pre-law, but postponed college to run the family business. Sotomayor went to Princeton and Yale, earning a law degree, and later, a seat on a federal bench.
"It's where she came from that really means something," said Perez. "You can really connect with that. She came from absolutely nothing, and to go to schools like Yale and Princeton, that's what makes you more excited for her."
Barring the unexpected, Senate confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor seems likely, given the large Democratic majority. If approved, she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court, and the third in history.