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Would Sotomayor be the First Hispanic Justice?

It's possible that the answer to this question is "no." Justice Benjamin Cardozo was a descendant of Spanish or Portuguese Jews who immigrated to America, and took great pride in his Sephardic Jewish identity. For details, see Andrew Kaufman's excellent biography of Cardozo.

That said, ethnic identity is largely a social construct. So I can understand if Hispanics today take special pride in Sotomayor's appointment because she would be the first justice whose parents were recent arrivals from Latin America. Like many racial or ethnic classifications, "Hispanic" is a somewhat arbitrary label. It includes widely divergent groups such as Brazilians and Mexicans, while sometimes being used in a way that excludes Spanish and Portuguese immigrants and their descendants (including Cardozo). That does not mean, however, that the term is completely incoherent. US Hispanics do have a distinct identity of sorts - even if only because American society has historically defined them as such over the last several decades.

Texas:
So I can understand if Hispanics today take special pride in Sotomayor's appointment ...

Eh. As a Hispanic woman, but one who happens to be conservative, no special pride taken here. It's not a token slot. It matters who the person is, not just their ethnicity.

I would have been happy if Miguel Estrada hadn't been blocked by Senate Dems as "not Hispanic enough." Who decides these things? Always seems to be liberals.
5.26.2009 10:44am
Afrânio de Mello Franco (mail):
Sotomoyor is the first "Hispanic" Justice, only because people of Portuguese decent, while Latinos, are decidedly not Hispanic. Portuguese and Brazilians, for example, do not speak Spanish, but rather speak Portuguese.

Of course, most people in the United States use the term Hispanic incorrectly, in place of the more expansive term "Latino." In reality, Brazilians are no more Hispanic than Koreans are Chinese.

In any case, unless one engages in Nuremburgian classification games to exclude Jews from being Latinos, Cardozo was certainly the first Latino Justice.
5.26.2009 10:45am
Hauk (mail):
US Hispanics do have a distinct identity of sorts - even if only because American society has historically defined them as such over the last several decades.

Hasn't there been a hispanic/latino "identity"--even if it's only one defined by American society at large--since at least the 1930's &1940's? Thinking the "zoot suit" era here. Correct me if I'm wrong.
5.26.2009 10:50am
PorkChop:
Hasn't this been discussed ad nausea already? There is no clear answer. Certainly, bloggers are not going to provide an answer.
5.26.2009 10:50am
first history:
'would be the first justice whose parents were recent arrivals from Latin America.'

Gee, and I always thought Puerto Rico was part of the United States. They have held US citizenship since 1917.
5.26.2009 10:52am
Per Son:
EVERYONE REPEAT AFTER ME!!!

THOSE FROM PORTUGAL (OR BRAZIL) ARE NOT/NOR HAVE THEY EVER BEEN CONSIDERED HISPANIC.

GENERALLY, THE TERM HISPANIC APPLIES IF TWO PRONGS ARE MET:

1) FROM A COUNTRY COLONIZED BY SPAIN; AND
2) THAT COUNTRY IS IN LATIN OR CENTRAL AMERICA (OR A PART OF THE USA THAT WAS ONCE UNDER SPANISH RULE)
5.26.2009 10:53am
Oren:



I would have been happy if Miguel Estrada hadn't been blocked by Senate Dems as "not Hispanic enough."

I thought they blocked him to deny Bush brownie points with the Hispanic community (link) and because they considered a highly-conservative Hispanic to be a dangerous Supreme Court nominee.
5.26.2009 10:54am
Ilya Somin:
Gee, and I always thought Puerto Rico was part of the United States. They have held US citizenship since 1917.

Puerto Rico is politically part of the US, while being geographically and culturally part of Latin America. The two are not mutually exclusive.
5.26.2009 10:56am
Franklin Drackman:
Is it just me, or does Judge Sotomayor look like Manuel Noriega in Drag????
5.26.2009 11:04am
Arnostocles:
Afranio,

It's not true "most people in the United States use the term Hispanic incorrectly."

First, there's no absolute definition of Hispanic. Your definition is "Hispanic" = "Spanish Speaking". This is not the "correct" one - it's both overinclusive and underinclusive.

Second, if most people are using a word to mean something, then it's not "incorrect" [description v. prescription].

What about the term "chicano[a]/xicano[a]"? I've heard it used narrowly to only include Mexican-Americans, and I've heard it used broadly to include all Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans.

Ilya,

"Justice Benjamin Cardozo was a descendant of Spanish or Portuguese Jews who immigrated to America."

Well, which one is it - Spanish or Portuguese?
If we are using Afranio's definitions, then the difference between Spanish [Hispanic] and Portuguese [not Hispanic] is important.
5.26.2009 11:05am
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
Hispanic from "Hispania", which was a Roman territory covering the whole of the Iberian peninsula. If you want to single out Portugal, you can use the more specific term "Lusitanic", but that refers to a region within Hispania.
5.26.2009 11:05am
JoshUpHere:
I know Portuguese &Brazilians that do consider themselves Latino and/or Hispanic. I also know Portuguese &Brazilians that do not.

Usually, those that do not, believe that "Portuguese" or "Brazilians" are "nothing like Hispanics in US" -- in other words, they are "better." Actually, it was a wonderful Portuguese friend of mine that explained this to me, while expressing he was ashamed of how some of his Portuguese and Brazilian friends put forth this view.
5.26.2009 11:05am
Ilya Somin:
Well, which one is it - Spanish or Portuguese?

As Kaufmann explains in the linked WSJ article, we don't know for sure.
5.26.2009 11:06am
Joseph Slater (mail):
Hasn't this been discussed ad nausea already? There is no clear answer. Certainly, bloggers are not going to provide an answer.

Welcome to the Internets! There are many marvels to behold here. . . .
5.26.2009 11:07am
pluribus:
Franklin Drackman:

Is it just me, or does Judge Sotomayor look like Manuel Noriega in Drag????

Why don't you just be honest and say "they all look alike to me"? The stereotypes are really flying today!
5.26.2009 11:16am
Joe Strummer (mail):
Supreme Court justices have it pretty easy. Legislators have to negotiate, appeal to constituencies, occasionally draft legislation, raise money, run for re-election, etc. The president has to do all that the president has to do.

But Supreme Court justices write opinions, with the help of exceptionally smart law students. This is not a complicated job. Anyone reading the Volokh Conspiracy could be an appeals court or supreme court justice. You don't even have to know very much law. You just have to have an eye for picking qualified clerks. If you have a basic conception of how the law should function, then all the better.

So while I can see why legal academics (another extremely easy job) want to say that you have to be incredibly impressive to be a Supreme Court justice, I can't see how that's true.

Sotomayor is clearly more than qualified to be Supreme Court justice. And I, for one, don't think it can be denied that personal experiences are reflected in jurisprudence. Of course it's not one-for-one. You can be Hispanic, and be a huge fan of limitless executive power (See, Gonzalez, A.) But people from groups who often are on the receiving end of government's gentle embrace might tend to have different views.
5.26.2009 11:18am
PorkChop:
Welcome to the Internets! There are many marvels to behold here. . .


Ha! :)

There are so many interesting issues to discuss and debate with respect to this pick, so I don't understand why people are wasting so much time on this blog discussing the most meaningless of issues (whether Cardozo would have fit into the modern day definition of 'Hispanic' since there was no such definition during his time).

Yawn.
5.26.2009 11:18am
first history:
Puerto Rico is politically part of the US, while being geographically and culturally part of Latin America. The two are not mutually exclusive.

What I object to is the description of her parents as "recent arrivals" or "immigrants." Her parents were as much "immigrants" if they "immigrated" from Arkansas. The only way they could be "immigrants" from Puerto Rico is if PR was independent (a status I favor, but that is another question).
5.26.2009 11:18am
Skyler (mail) (www):
As a Portuguese, I can affirm that we are not within the definition of "hispanic" as put forth by the government. We do not qualify for any government program that gives things to hispanics.

It seems minorities are only important when the minority is big. Minor minorities aren't deemed important enough to be "protected."

Not that I'm complaining. The less I have to do with the government, the better.

But now I know that Cardozo was a Portagee. What a treat to learn that.
5.26.2009 11:19am
Arnostocles:
Ilya,

Thanks.

It's sort of silly to speculate about Cardozo being the "first Hispanic" if we don't even know which country his ancestors came from.

Do we know if he spoke Spanish [or Portuguese]?



Per Son,

Your definition isn't workable either, especially because Portugal itself was part of Spain at one time. King Phillip II of Spain also became King of Portugal - the "Iberian Union" was really Spain colonizing Portugal.
5.26.2009 11:22am
Arnostocles:

Minor minorities aren't deemed important enough to be "protected."


I don't think this is always true. Both Bush and Obama made very last minute extensions to the "Temporary Protected Status" of Liberians in America - deferring the forced departure by an extra 18 [I think] months each.
5.26.2009 11:27am
Joseph Slater (mail):
Porkchop:

As I hope was clear, I agree with you. See also other threads endlessly parsing the "I hope a wise old Latina woman" quote.

It would be nice to discuss some of her decisions and/or writings, and or truly substantive public statements.
5.26.2009 11:35am
Franklin Drackman:
I didn't say "they all look alike" cause they dont...
Judge Sotomayor certainly doesn't look a thing like J-Lo, or A-Rod...Y'all liberals the ones who wanta categorize everyone...
And she DOES look like Noriega... not that there's anything wrong with that...
Heck, Noriega'd probably be a more main stream justice...
5.26.2009 11:48am
metro1 (mail) (www):
There seems to be a dearth of commentary on this point - and lack of short-term historical memory. If Hispanics (and/or others) were so concerned about having a Hispanic on the Supreme Court, why didn't they object more when Senate Democrats blocked even having a vote on Miguel Estrada for the D.C. Court of Appeals - and likely nomination thereafter to the U.S. Supreme Court (by George W. Bush)?

See here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,77667,00.html
5.26.2009 12:05pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

Your definition isn't workable either, especially because Portugal itself was part of Spain at one time.


And almost all of Europe was at one time part of the Roman Empire. How far back must one go before the two countries are considered separate in your mind? Portugal has been a separate personality since about 700 AD or so when the Arabs first started coming into Iberia. I think that's far enough back.
5.26.2009 12:09pm
PorkChop:
There seems to be a dearth of commentary on this point - and lack of short-term historical memory. If Hispanics (and/or others) were so concerned about having a Hispanic on the Supreme Court, why didn't they object more when Senate Democrats blocked even having a vote on Miguel Estrada for the D.C. Court of Appeals - and likely nomination thereafter to the U.S. Supreme Court (by George W. Bush)?

See here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,77667,00.html


metro1 -

Perhaps because it is not all about race. Even when people like you (and Fox News) try to project onto others such things.

Let's talk about substance.
5.26.2009 12:09pm
Seamus (mail):

Gee, and I always thought Puerto Rico was part of the United States. They have held US citizenship since 1917.



Well, then, you were always mistaken. Puerto Rico is not part of the United States; it is a possession of the United States (or, if you prefer, a territory of the United States).

As Wikipedia explains: "Territories can be classified by whether they are incorporated (part of the United States proper) and whether they have an organized government (through an Organic Act passed by the U.S. Congress). The organized incorporated territories of the United States existed from 1789 to 1959, through which 31 territories applied for and achieved statehood. The U.S. had no unincorporated territories (also called 'overseas possessions' or 'insular areas) until 1898 but continues to control several of them today."

Among those several unincorporated territories is Puerto Rico.
5.26.2009 12:12pm
Seamus (mail):

Do we know if he spoke Spanish [or Portuguese]?



Does it matter? I don't speak Irish, but I'm still an Irish-American.
5.26.2009 12:13pm
Seamus (mail):
On the subject of incorporation of Puerto Rico:


It was further settled in Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U. S. 244, and confirmed by Dorr v. United States, 195 U. S. 138, that neither the Philippines nor Porto Rico was territory which had been incorporated in the Union or become a part of the United States, as distinguished from merely belonging to it . . . .



Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 305 (1922) (emphasis added).
5.26.2009 12:33pm
wooga:


Does it matter? I don't speak Irish, but I'm still an Irish-American.

Seamus, under the "Sotomayor" standard, this means you would be an inferior judge to Jennifer Lopez. Congratulations.
5.26.2009 12:36pm
PorkChop:
Your definition isn't workable either, especially because Portugal itself was part of Spain at one time.

And almost all of Europe was at one time part of the Roman Empire. How far back must one go before the two countries are considered separate in your mind? Portugal has been a separate personality since about 700 AD or so when the Arabs first started coming into Iberia. I think that's far enough back.


Skyler -

I am Portuguese too (good to see other porkchops perusing this blog!) and I do not know whether Portuguese are:

(a) Hispanic, (b) "white", (c) Latino, (d) all of the above, (e) none of the above, (f) A &B, (g) B &C, (h) A &C, or (i) "Other" -def my personal favorite-

When I was in law school, I heard several "white" students say discriminatory remarks about the "minority" students in my presence because they assumed I was white. One white male student told me that it was a fact that none of the Latino students "like me" had the same intellectual or academic pedigree as the white students (never mind that I had test scores above the median). I also had Hispanic students complain to me about how "we" were marginalized in the law school community. Also, one Hispanic girl told me that a Hispanic event I volunteered for was "for Hispanics only" (presumable not me). Putting aside the racism on both sides, who is correct in their definition? I don't know.

As a result of these experiences, I researched this issue with the hopes of figuring out "who I am" and I learned there was no correct answer. Then I realized the root problem was that I felt compelled to research this. Perhaps this is why I find this topic to be a waste of time. I have found that the best way to deal with this issue is to not check any box.
5.26.2009 12:43pm
tom swift (mail):
What's with VC these days? Why are commenters quoting Wikipedia at us? Waste of time and effort. If you must, look something up in a real encyclopedia. Of course you'll then have to transcribe it. The very best encyclopedias predate the electronic era.
5.26.2009 12:46pm
A.C.:
I thought "Latino" included Brazilians, while "Hispanic" included people from Spain but excluded Brazilians. I wasn't aware that either included Portuguese people from Portugal. But I'm from New England, and we never had any particular difficulty calling them "Portuguese."
5.26.2009 12:47pm
Seamus (mail):

What's with VC these days? Why are commenters quoting Wikipedia at us? Waste of time and effort. If you must, look something up in a real encyclopedia. Of course you'll then have to transcribe it. The very best encyclopedias predate the electronic era.



Tom Swift: Is my quotation from United States Reports good enough for you?
5.26.2009 12:48pm
Gil Franco (mail):
Many "Portuguese" Jews were Spanish Jewish who escaped from Spain in 1492 and left Portugal withing a couple of years when the Inquisition and expulsion orders reached that country. In most cases, there was no meaningful difference between Portuguese and Spanish Jews in an ethnic sense. I assume this is the case for most of Cardozo's ancestors. It is telling that his last name was spelled in the Spanish manner and not the Portuguese "Cardoso."
5.26.2009 1:24pm
FWB (mail):
Divide and conquer. We worry about ancestry, ethnicity. We wear this like a badge of honor but it carries no honor. We spearate ourselves and destroy the Union because we are too blind to see the truth that only in the blending of the people did the US become great.


"Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam"


An Irish German French Dutch English Spanish Scottish Native American
5.26.2009 1:38pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Porkchop,

Portuguese are white, as are hispanics from Spain or related to people from Spain.

Hispanics can be of any race, black, white, or Native American, perhaps even Asian. Brazilians are likewise of just about any race. But Portuguese are just about exclusively caucasian, though I'm sure that there are exceptions.
5.26.2009 1:51pm
PorkChop:
Portuguese are white, as are hispanics from Spain or related to people from Spain.

Hispanics can be of any race, black, white, or Native American, perhaps even Asian. Brazilians are likewise of just about any race. But Portuguese are just about exclusively caucasian, though I'm sure that there are exceptions.


Skyler -

Thanks for stating your opinion. Let me file it somewhere along with the millions of others.
5.26.2009 2:08pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Porkchop, it's not an opinion. That is the way the classifications are done by the US government, which is law.
5.26.2009 2:20pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

People of Hispanic origin were able to report their origin as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American, or some other Latino origin on the CPS questionnaire. Hispanics may be of any race.


http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p20-545.pdf
5.26.2009 2:26pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Also see,

http://www.census.gov/prod/2007pubs/acs-03.pdf

Where every South American and Central American nation is listed, except Brazil when defining Hispanic. Brazil is quite a large nation and would not be lumped into the very small "other" category.
5.26.2009 2:30pm
CJColucci:
There were many places Benjamin Cardozo couldn't get into because he was Jewish. I'm not aware of any places he couldn't get into because he was Hispanic/Latino/Iberian.
5.26.2009 2:33pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Type of origin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Population

Hispanic or Latino. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40,459,196
Mexican . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25,894,763
Puerto Rican . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,874,322
Cuban . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,437,828
Dominican . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,051,032
Spaniard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358,570

Central American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,901,679
Costa Rican . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120,316
Guatemalan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 698,745
Honduran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 407,994
Nicaraguan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248,725
Panamanian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113,053
Salvadoran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,201,002
Other Central American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111,844

South American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,215,503
Argentinean . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189,190
Bolivian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90,401
Chilean . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106,458
Colombian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 686,185
Ecuadorian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453,360
Paraguayan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14,123
Peruvian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 399,240
Uruguayan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41,577
Venezuelan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164,699
Other South American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70,270

All other Hispanic or Latino . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,725,499
5.26.2009 2:38pm
PorkChop:
Skyler -

Here is what I found in 5 minutes of Internets research.

49 CFR 26.5:
""Hispanic Americans," which includes persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race"

--

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget currently defines "Hispanic or Latino" as "a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race". This definition presumably excludes people of Portuguese origins, such as Portuguese Americans and Brazilian Americans.

They are included, however, in some government agencies' definitions. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation defines Hispanic to include, "persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or others Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race." This definition has been adopted by the Small Business Administration as well as many federal, state, and municipal agencies for the purposes of awarding government contracts to minority owned businesses. Still other government agencies adopt definitions that exclude people from Spain. Some others include people from Brazil, but not Spain or Portugal.


Like I said, there is no definitive answer -- no matter how many times you repeat your opinion.
5.26.2009 2:50pm
wooga:

When I was in law school, I heard several "white" students say discriminatory remarks about the "minority" students in my presence because they assumed I was white. One white male student told me that it was a fact that none of the Latino students "like me" had the same intellectual or academic pedigree as the white students (never mind that I had test scores above the median).


PorkChop,
I'm sure those law school students were supporters of affirmative action, so their racism is welcome in our "politically correct" world. Welcome to the soft bigotry of low expectations.
5.26.2009 3:33pm
Vitor Gaspar (mail):
Portuguese and Brazilians are not Hispanics!!!
Anynone that says otherwise is an ignorant.

Portugal, in almost 900 years as an independent country, was only part of Spain for 60 years. Brazil never was a spanish colony.

Hispania ... Spain... ring a bell??

Now, go and do your homework.
5.26.2009 8:00pm
TexasDude (mail):
Victor Gaspar,you obviously don't know much about Spain and
Portugal,and you are the ignorant one.Portugal did not exist
during the Roman times when Publius Cornilius Scipio invaded
Spain in 218 BC.Its inhabitants are the same people,whether
they are of the eastern,southern,northern parts of Spain.In
Medieval times,during the battle of Navas de Tolosa,Portugal
was a principality of Spain.They aided the other principali-
ties in defeating an invading army, under Alfonso II.It was
part of the Roman Empire, as you said HISPANIA was all of
present day PORTUGAL and SPAIN.The word HISPANIA comes from
a word that the phoenicians used to describe what they call
the land of rabbits.The WORD APPLIES TO PORTUGUESE PEOPLE.
THEY ARE ETHNICLY IDENTICAL TO THE PORTUGUESE AND TWO THIRDS
OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE.Anyone that has studied the History of
England would've stambled upon the word IBERIAN (ANCIENT PEOPLE FROM SPAIN).

NOTE: GO TO GOOGLE SEARCH AND TYPE "SPANISH CELTS"
AND YOU WILL SEE A VERY INTERESTING ARTICLE ABOUT HISPANICS
BRYAN SYKES IS ONE OF THE DISCOVERES,BUT THERE IS ANOTHER
RESEARCHER BY THE NAME OF STEPHEN OPPENHEIMER
5.27.2009 4:20am
TexasDude (mail):
MISSPELLED ETHNICALLY,PLEASE NOTE THE CORRECTION.
5.27.2009 4:34am
metro1 (mail) (www):
pork chop:

"There seems to be a dearth of commentary on this point - and lack of short-term historical memory. If Hispanics (and/or others) were so concerned about having a Hispanic on the Supreme Court, why didn't they object more when Senate Democrats blocked even having a vote on Miguel Estrada for the D.C. Court of Appeals - and likely nomination thereafter to the U.S. Supreme Court (by George W. Bush)?

See here: Fox News article

metro1 -

Perhaps because it is not all about race. Even when people like you (and Fox News) try to project onto others such things.

Let's talk about substance."


* * *

Substance would be preferred indeed. Please explain that to Judge Sotomayor - that one's ethnicity and/or gender (whether they're a "Latina woman" or "white male" - to use her words) - should never trump substance. Perhaps if she focused on substance, as you suggest, she would not have been reversed by the Supreme Court 60% of the time:

Washington Times article
5.27.2009 12:58pm
metro1 (mail) (www):
pork chop: here's the Washington Times link:

Washington Times article
5.27.2009 1:00pm

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