Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history this week, becoming the youngest woman to be sworn into Congress in the history of the United States — and she’s starting her first term by honoring her roots.
Ocasio-Cortez, who now represents New York’s 14th district (covering the Bronx and Queens) in the House of Representatives, posted a heartfelt tribute to her mother on Instagram on Saturday.
Beneath a photo of herself, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and her mother, Ocasio-Cortez wrote, “What can I possibly say except thank you? So many people sacrificed so much for this to happen — my mother most of all.”
Ocasio-Cortez went on to tell her mamá’s story, who was born in Puerto Rico and was raised in poverty. She married and moved to New York City at a young age, without knowing English, to start a new life, working odd jobs such as mopping floors, driving school buses, and answering phones. When Ocasio-Cortez’s father passed away, she was left a single mother of two and the family had to start “over. & over. & over.”
“It wasn’t long ago that we felt our lives were over; that there were only so many do-overs until it was just too late, or too much to take, or we were too spiritually spent,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “I honestly thought as a 28 year old waitress I was too late; that the train of my fulfilled potential had left the station.”
What can I possibly say except thank you? So many people sacrificed so much for this to happen - my mother most of all. . My mamá was born + raised in Puerto Rico. She practically raised her siblings in poverty while her own mother worked nonstop to provide food and shelter. She met my father, a Bronx boy visiting isla family, at a young age. They married + moved to NYC - she didn’t even speak English. My parents started from scratch: new languages, new life, new everything. Then came me, and they moved to start over again so I could have an education. Mami mopped floors, drove school buses, + answered phones. She did whatever she needed to do, for me. When my father died, she was left a single mother of 2, and again she had to start over. After he passed we almost lost our home, so we sold it and started over. & over. & over. . It wasn’t long ago that we felt our lives were over; that there were only so many do-overs until it was just too late, or too much to take, or we were too spiritually spent. I was scrubbing tables + scooping candle wax after restaurant shifts & falling asleep on the subway ride home. I once got pickpocketed, & everything I earned that day was stolen. That day I locked myself in a room and cried deep: I had nothing left to give, or to be. And that’s when I started over. I honestly thought as a 28 year old waitress I was too late; that the train of my fulfilled potential had left the station. . This week I was sworn in as the youngest woman in American history to serve in the United States Congress. I hope that record is broken again soon. As I raised my hand for the oath, my mother held the holy book & looked into @SpeakerPelosi’s eyes. Afterwards, the Speaker said to her “you must be so proud,” and my mother began to cry. . It was not long ago that our family’s hope was so dim it was barely an ember. Darkness taught me transformation cannot solely be an individual pursuit,but also a community trust. We must lean on others to strive on our own. . Thank you all. Whether it was late nights, hard days, pocket change, emotional investment, hard & soft skills, door knocking in the heat or petitioning in the bitter cold - we did this together.
Following her unprecedented win in the 2018 midterms, Ocasio-Cortez — who is a self-described Democratic Socialist — has become a leader for the left, unabashedly advocating for progressive policies on the economy, the environment, healthcare, and immigration. Throughout her campaign, she credited her politics to her working-class upbringing and being raised by a single mother, a demographic that is often ignored or given a bad image. Single moms are also barely represented in Congress, are disproportionately affected by the wage gap, and have been widely excluded and hurt by Republican legislation — symptoms of a society that rarely gives single mothers the support or credit they deserve.
Ocasio-Cortez is a proud child of a single mother. She says her victory is a result of lifelong support from her community — especially her mamá, who joined her daughter when she was sworn into the House this week.
“As I raised my hand for the oath, my mother held the holy book & looked into @SpeakerPelosi’s eyes,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “Afterwards, the Speaker said to her ‘you must be so proud,’ and my mother began to cry.”
Thanking everyone who dedicated their time, skills, and emotional investment to her campaign, Ocasio-Cortez added, “Darkness taught me transformation cannot solely be an individual pursuit, but also a community trust. We must lean on others to strive on our own.”