Wednesday, May 27, 2009

West Bronx Side Story

For most of my life, I grew up in the northeast Bronx in a place that was new, big, and its own micro-melting pot of the larger essence of NYC. It was truly the first time I had been exposed to people of a wide array of cultures. This being the Bronx, fully half the friends I hung around with were of Puerto Rican descent. Some were boriqua, natives that emigrated to NYC, but many more were first generation Bronxites.

It is where I first experienced food that was outside of my standard taste zone. I still remember the first time I tasted a well-made dish of arroz con pollo, and a cup of strong Cafe Bustello. It was radically different from the standard Eastern European "cook it 'til it blanches" types of fare that was too often the staple of my diet. (However, in all fairness to my mom, she could cook up a damned tasty meatloaf, and her mashed potatoes are still the best. ) There was not a ton of variety in my own ethnic food life, and having all these differing varieties of fare gave me an appreciation not only how good food can be, but how varied cultures can be.

It also enhanced my command of Spanish, which up until the the mid-late 90's, was fairly conversational. I took 6 years of it between junior high and high school, and being around so many Spanish-speaking friends, it got quite the workout. I also learned the most important words, such as maricon, pendejo, and the one that if, you said to a guy in anger, would most likely find you involved in a knife fight, cabron. Alas, while I still used my Spanish somewhat frequently while working in Brooklyn, I lost the ability to speak it conversationally. I lost it completely after moving here, as I have not used it for 10 years. I still remember certain things, but unless it is in the present tense, I can't remember much else.

This brings us to yesterday, and President Obama's choice to be on the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. She is, a Bronx Latina; her parents are boriqua, and she grew up in the Bronxdale Houses, one of the roughest housing projects in the country, just southwest from where I grew up. Her story has already been on display in the media, and the battle royale has begun as to whether she is too liberal, or not liberal enough. Was this a political pick, designed to ensure Obama's favor with Latino voters? Does she have the judicial background that will pass muster in the Senate? Two things are for certain: For starters, she was appointed to the Federal bench by then Republican President George Bush the Elder, and promoted to the appellate court by President Clinton. Perhaps more importantly, she knows how to handle her self in a fight. Growing up in the Bronx teaches you those things. Whatever the Republican opponents throw at her, you can be sure she will be able to handle it.

I am still examining her record, but from what I can tell so far, she is far more centrist than people realize. She ruled in favor of abortion protesters in one case, against labor in another and for it in a different one. The label of "dyed-in-the-wool liberal" may not stand up under closer scrutiny, but for now, I still need to know more.

What would I really like to see? Some Republican senator really go after her, and her respond with a big, fat, Bronx cheer. Now that would really make my day.


Peter said...

You know Mr Nighttime, your post actually made the Bronx feel "real" for me, having grown up in Antwerp, Belgium's green suburbia.

Before we started chatting, the Bronx was a mere distant "to be avoided" location in a US city I only visited once.

As for Sonia Sotomayor:
I'm (only slightly) surprised reading and watching the vile lies the Rep right is throwing at this very capable woman.

Some gutter comments on FOX tv were downright disgusting, with one liberal commenter noting (quote):

"By noon this woman will be turned by Glenn Beck&friends into a communist lesbian sex-addict terrorist-sympathizer who wants to sell America's children into slavery overseas."

willow said...

Excellent post!

Thanks for stopping by Willow Manor from David's.

Ms. Neha Gandhi said...

woww...i loved ur analysis...i am myself very intrigued by this lady..and to me she sounds like a good choice...