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Latinos Welcome Sotomayor Pick

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Sonia Sotomayor represents a milestone for Latinos as the first nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. She has identified herself as a Nuyorican, blending her Puerto Rican heritage with her upbringing in New York. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, Latinos of all background say they are happy with the president's choice.

CARRIE KAHN: Sotomayor's nomination was all the talk outside the St. Mary's Catholic school in Los Angeles, where Sally Clavel(ph) dropped off her daughter.

Ms. SALLY CLAVEL: (Spanish spoken)

KAHN: She says it's such a privilege to know that President Obama is considering Latinos while making such an important decision. And she says he really is bringing about change.

(Soundbite of music)

KAHN: Clavel was grabbing a cup of coffee at the nearby Plaza Mexico. It's a place where Latinos gather to have a quick breakfast and talk about the day's news. Today, they had a lot to talk about.

Ms. MARIA ZARAGOSA(ph): (Spanish spoken)

KAHN: Maria Zaragosa says she feels proud that President Obama picked a Latina to one of the highest positions in the nation. And she says she hopes that people now will listen to Latinos more.

Ms. ZARAGOSA: (Spanish spoken)

KAHN: Sotomayor has been quoted as saying that being a woman and Latino has helped guide her decision-making. While that may be controversial in the upcoming confirmation process, that wins her major points with Latinos in places like Los Angeles.

Hispanic organizations across the country have been praising her nomination -from the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund in New York, to the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. Civic rights groups say this is a historic day for Latinos in the country. Sitting at an outside cafe in the L.A. shopping center, Raul Evarro(ph), who is from Mexico, says even though Sotomayor is Puerto Rican, all Latinos are celebrating.

Mr. RAUL EVARRO: It doesn't really matter. We speak the same language, we think the same so - and it's going to help to everybody.

KAHN: Jaime Regalado, a political scientist and director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A., says the symbolism of Sotomayor's nomination is significant.

Mr. JAIME REGALADO (Director, Pat Brown Institute): It would be hard to imagine that there's a more elevated position that he could've appointed a member of the Latino community to - in fact, there's none higher.

KAHN: Regalado says politically, the nomination may give Obama a little bit of breathing room before having to complete his campaign promise to Latinos that he would tackle the controversial fight for comprehensive immigration reform.

(Soundbite of music)

KAHN: Jose Galvet(ph) plays nightly at restaurants in the Plaza Mexico. He says he's a big Obama supporter, and is thrilled that there will be a Latina in the nation's highest judicial post. He starts playing an old Mexican ballad that he says honors women.

Mr. JOSE GALVET (Musician): (Singing in Spanish)

KAHN: He adds, especially those in high places.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.