In a stunning defeat over 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history over the summer as a Democratic Socialist woman of color running in the 14th district of New York. Ocasio-Cortez, whose campaign was 100% volunteer-led and accepted no money from corporate donors.
Ocasio is the daughter of a Puerto-Rican immigrant and a small-business owner from the Bronx. Her mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, 55, told The New York Post in June, “Her aspiration is to be the president.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s mother continued, “She has been thinking about politics since she was a teenager. She would read historical and political books old and new. She would engage in political discussions passionately.”
Of her daughter’s surprising win, she said,
“It’s just incredible. I believe she would do it but so soon — it was shocking. She is fighting for our community,” She is fighting for the working class. She is fighting for immigrants. We can relate to that. We are working class. We did struggle. We know what struggle means.”
Here’s what you need to know about Ocasio-Cortez’s family:
1. She Went to School About 40 Minutes Away From the Bronx, Where She Was Born & Says That Taught Her About Income Equality
According to Ocasio-Cortez’s official site, she learned about income inequality at an early age when her parents sent her to a school 40 minutes away, in Yorktown Heights, because of the state of the school system in the Bronx.
This drive made an impact on Ocasio-Cortez, as she learned that a “40 minute drive represented a vastly different quality of available schooling, economic opportunity, and health outcomes.”
Her family did eventually move closer to Yorktown Heights when she was still in school. But she told the Daily Mail, “My dad had a small family business in the Bronx, and the rest of my whole family stayed there. So I grew up between two worlds, shuttling between the Bronx and Yorktown most of my life.”
2. Her Father, Sergio Ocasio-Roman, Passed Away Suddenly in 2008
Ocasio’s father died suddenly in 2008, at 48 years old, due to cancer. Her site explains that the Ocasio family was suddenly thrown into a crisis, now that they had lost their primary form of income in the middle of a recession.
Per lohud, Ocasio-Cortez’s father’s name was Sergio Ocasio-Roman, though little biographical information is available for him. Lohud reveals that Ocasio-Roman did buy a home in Yorktown (the one Ocasio-Cortez would live in with her family for several years) for $150,000 when Ocasio-Cortez was two years old, and that he gave the house to his wife after his passing. The family sold the house in 2016.
After her father’s death, Ocasio worked two day jobs, working 18-hour shifts at restaurants to help her mother keep their home.
3. Ocasio Only Moved Home After College Because She Needed To Help Keep Her Family Afloat Financially
After Ocasio graduated from college in 2011, she moved back to the Bronx to help her mother stay afloat. Her mother, in turn returned to cleaning houses and also took a job driving a bus.
After Ocasio’s time working as a waitress to help support her mother, she became an educator at the National Hispanic Institute, and began to get her feet wet with campaign organizing while working for Bernie Sander’s 2016 campaign.
To The Huffington Post, she said, “I see people like me, who thought someone like me couldn’t be in politics, now are saying, ‘Oh, wait, I don’t need to take money from corporations to run. Maybe I’ll run too.’”
4. Her Aunt and Uncle Used to Listen to Malcolm X Speak
In an interview with Vogue, Ocasio-Cortez talked about her experience and relationship to living in New York. Ocasio-Cortez talked about her deep family history to the streets of New York, saying, “My aunt and my uncle were just talking last Christmas about how they literally heard Malcolm X evangelizing on street corners.”
Ocasio-Cortez noted this memory as an example of her intergenerational history with the Bronx, then added, “This city is becoming too inaccessible and too unaffordable for normal people to live in anymore.”
5. After Three Generations of Living in the Bronx, Her Mother Can’t Afford to Live There Anymore
Ocasio-Cortez’s mother, who cleaned homes for a living while Ocasio-Cortez was growing up, can no longer afford to live in the Bronx, after living there for several decades.
To Vogue, Ocasio-Cortez said, “My family is three generations deep in the Bronx, and my own mother can’t afford to live in the same city, in the same state as me anymore, because it’s gotten too expensive.”
Ocasio-Cortez was quick to note that her parents’ ability to raise her in the city is a perfect example of how much has changed since then. “I was born to a dad who was born in the South Bronx while the Bronx was burning, while landlords were committing arson to their own buildings,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez continued, “He grew up as a kid with five people in a one-bedroom apartment, and my mom was born in poverty in Puerto Rico. But they met out there, they got married, came back, and had me, and as 20-somethings they were able to take out a small loan and get an apartment in the Bronx, and have me. And the idea of that, for two working-class 20-somethings, it’s almost unimaginable in New York City anymore.”