Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is a rising star in the Democratic party. On January 3, the 29 year old became the youngest woman ever to be sworn in to the US Congress. Ocasio-Cortez has said she’s grateful to all the people who sacrificed to make her journey to the US Congress a reality. She wrote an emotional Instagram post thanking her mother, Blanca Ocasio Cortez, for everything she’s done for her. Blanca struggled to provide for the family after Ocasio Cortez’s father, Sergio, died in 2008.
Here’s what you need to know about Sergio Cortez:
1. He Was Born in New York & Met His Wife While Visiting Family in Puerto Rico
Sergio Ocasio was born and raised in New York City. He met his wife, Blanca, when he was visiting Puerto Rico as a young man. In an Instagram post honoring her mother, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez wrote, “She [Blanca] 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.”
Sergio and Blanca married and moved to Parkchester, a working class neighborhood in the East Bronx. The family lived in a planned community in Parkchester until Alexandria was five years old, when they moved in search of a better school for her.
2. He Was the President of an Architecture Firm in The Bronx
Sergio Ocasio founded a company called Kirschenbaum Ocasio-Roman Pc. A Chamber of Commerce listing gives the company’s address as 1510 Archer Road, Apt TB in The Bronx, New York. That same Chamber of Commerce listing says that the business had a sales volume of 500,000 and employed six people.
The company, now closed, specialized in building and land inspection services, and also provided landscape contractors and lawn maintenance, architectural services, and engineering services.
3. He Bought a Home in Westchester So Alexandria Could Attend Better Schools
After Sergio and Blanca got married, they moved to a planned community in Parkchester, a working class neighborhood in The Bronx, New York. But when Alexandria was five years old, the family decided to move. Sergio bought a two-bedroom home in Yorktown Heights, a suburb in Westchester County.
Ocasio Cortez took a lot of criticism for allegedly misrepresenting her childhood. Her critics said that Ocasio-Cortez had lied about her family’s wealth; Ocasio Cortez said that, in fact, she grew up “between two worlds” and that even though she went to school in Yorktown, she never lost sight of her Bronx roots.
“A major part of my story, and what I’ve shared with my neighbors throughout this campaign, is that I grew up between two worlds,” Ocasio Cortez told the Daily Mail.”At a young age, my entire extended family (aunts, grandparents, etc) chipped in on a down payment for a small home in Yorktown so I could go to public school there. My mom was as a house cleaner for other people in the town so we could get by,” she said.
4. He Died of Lung Cancer When Alexandria Was Just 19
When Alexandria was 19 years old, a sophomore at Boston University, Sergio died of cancer. His death threw the family into turmoil. Alexandria said she remembered Blanca calling her when she was in the middle of an economics class; Alexandria rushed home and rushed to the hospital to see her father.
After Sergio’s death, the family struggled financially. They became embroiled in a battle with the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court, which handles the estates of people who die without a will. The family feared that they might lose their Westchester home. Eventually, they were allowed to sell the home at a profit. But Blanca struggled to provide for the family, and after Alexandria graduated from college, she took on extra work to help keep the family afloat. Alexandria began bartending and waitressing in addition to her job as educational director with the National Hispanic Institute, a nonprofit that provides leadership training for Latino youths.
5. His Son, Gabriel, is a Realtor in New York
Sergio and Blanca had two children: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Gabriel Ocasio Cortez. Gabriel is a real estate agent who sells homes in New York and Connecticut. His website shows homes in Chappaqua and in Armonk, as well as in Westchester.
In a tweet which has since been taken down, Gabriel defended his sister against charges that she had lied about her upbringing. He said that the Westchester home his parents bought was modest and that the family struggled financially to be able to afford it: “I owned & sold that home. It’s less than 1,000 sq.ft… 3 small bedrooms & 1 bathroom for 5 people. (5 w/o family). Terrible winter drafts, leaky roof, etc. I watched my parents skip dinner so we could eat. Don’t even try it,” he wrote.