Indeed, Savannah and many other Latinas hope that the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the nation's highest court will finally at least color in the Latina stereotype with the diversity and depth at the heart of Puerto Rican culture.
Savannah, who works consciously to minimize the importance of ethnic or racial identification even as she is proud to be a "Boricua," puts it this way: "When people get introduced they ask, ‘What are you?' And I know what they're asking, but I just try to be funny with it. I say, ‘I'm a girl, what are you?' ... I mean, it's cool a Hispanic was nominated, but why does it have to be such a big thing? Why does it have to be so special?"
"The stereotypes of Latinas as ghetto girls smacking gum, like all stereotypes, cannot possibly portray the richness of our identities and experiences," says Lyn Di Iorio, the author of "Killing Spanish: Literary Essays on Ambivalent US Latino/a Identity" who grew up poor in Puerto Rico and attended Harvard, Stanford, and University of California, Berkeley. "The judge's story is a great one for young Latinas to digest because it does start to spread the idea not just that she is uniquely accomplished ... but that there are others like her coming up."
The South Bronx has a stereotype of its own as a poverty-ridden symbol of urban decay that sits beside Yankee Stadium. During a 1977 World Series game, Howard Cosell famously uttered "the Bronx is burning," referring to the epidemic of arson in the many abandoned buildings that lined drug-ridden streets. But Savannah's South Bronx of today is a very different place. During the 1980s, the city decided to rehab some of the abandoned buildings and burned out, empty lots and sell others for as little as a dollar each to nonprofit and church groups. Those groups then built affordable housing or rehabbed existing buildings. People began moving back, building businesses and having families.