Was Benjamin Cardozo or Sonia Sotomayor the first Hispanic justice on the US Supreme Court?

Sonia Sotomayor

The question of Justice Benjamin Cardozo's ethnic heritage has been a matter of controversy for years.

Cardozo's family immigrated to the American colonies in the 18th century from Holland and England, where they were established as citizens. The family identified themselves mainly as Sephardic Jews whose ancestors were from the Iberian Peninsula (modern Portugal and Spain), but believed they were of Portuguese descent. Nevertheless, the family tree contains some traditional Spanish surnames, such are Gomez, Menedes and Navarro, so their true ancestry, like many people's, is probably somewhat mixed.

According to the Portuguese Consul in Boston, Cardozo is a Portuguese name. Neither the Portuguese nor the Spanish consider those with Portuguese heritage Hispanic. The U.S. Census bureau also considers the Portuguese population to be distinct from the Hispanic population. The two nations have different cultures and speak different languages.

Cardozo attended the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, but did not belong to either Spanish- or Portuguese-national social groups. Since the term "Hispanic" was not widely used during his lifetime, Cardozo, himself, had nothing to say on the matter.

I think it is reasonable to classify Justice Sotomayor as the first Latina member of the Court because she clearly identifies herself closely with the Hispanic population, and because her ancestry can be traced directly and consistently to people of Spanish origin.