On October 13, 1989, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in The Bronx, New York City to Blanca Ocasio-Cortez and Sergio Ocasio. She is best known as being the youngest woman elected to the United States Congress and for her progressive ideas. Proudly proclaiming herself a Democratic Socialist, Alexandria has taken a liberal stance on subjects such as Criminal Justice reform, tuition-free college, demolishing or restructuring ICE, and universal healthcare.
Alexandria grew up in a middle-class family. Her father, Sergio Ocasio was of Puerto Rican descent and worked as an architect. Alexandria’s mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez was born in Puerto Rico, later relocating to the United States. As a young child, Alexandria’s family lived in an apartment located in the neighborhood of Parkchester. In the mid-1990s, the Ocasio-Cortez family relocated to a modest house in Yorktown Heights, a suburb in Westchester County. Although no longer living in The Bronx, Alexandria still had family there and spent a great deal of time visiting her childhood neighborhood.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended Yorktown High School from 2003 to 2007 where she excelled in her studies and became involved in the National Hispanic Institute’s Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session. After high school, her involvement with her community continued as the LDZ Secretary of State. Alexandria attended Boston University through a John F. Lopez Fellowship. While attending school, she worked as an intern for Senator Ted Kennedy. Alexandria graduated from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and international relations.
After graduating from college, Alexandria returned to New York and took several low-wage restaurant jobs in an effort to help her family through a financially difficult time. After her father’s death in 2008, the Ocasio-Cortez family endured severe financial strife with her mother working as a bus driver and the bank threatening to foreclose on the family home. Alexandria was determined to see her family through this difficult period.
In spite of the family’s misfortunes, Alexandria set out to bring attention to working-class families in the Bronx. With financial backing from Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, she established a publishing firm, Brook Avenue Press, which specializes in children’s literature that paints the Bronx in a positive light. In addition, Alexandria worked as an educational strategist at GAGEis, as well as an educator at the nonprofit National Hispanic Institute where she served as the Educational Director of the 2017 Northeast Collegiate World Series.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s interest in politics continued and in the 2016 Democratic Primaries, she worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. After the conclusion of the General Election, Alexandria set off on a cross-country road trip to see firsthand some of the strife and human rights violations that had been in the news, including the Standing Rock water fight and the Flint water crisis. It was after seeing these abuses that she decided the only way to bring equality and justice to the American people was to hold a position of power. Alexandria knew that to discover what the people needed she would have to go to them directly, which is exactly what she did. Her campaign mainly consisted of familiarizing her constituents with who she is and listening to what those in her district needed from a representative.
On May 16, 2017, it was announced via live stream that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would run for Congress as a Justice Democrat. She vowed to run a grassroots campaign that would refuse corporate money. Alexandria was the first challenger to the Democratic incumbent, Joe Crowley since 2004. She was endorsed by progressive and civil rights organizations such as MoveOn, Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, Black Lives Matter, and Democracy for America. Although she was outspent 10 to 1 by Crowley’s campaign, on June 26, 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary for her seat with 57.13% of the vote, defeating the 10-term incumbent by almost 15 percentage points for New York’s 14th congressional district. Alexandria went on to win the November 6, 2016, General Election against her Republican opponent, Anthony Pappas with 78% of the vote.
Due to her strength and progressive positions, several rightwing media personalities and politicians, including President Donald J Trump, have consistently attacked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This has done nothing to detour the vivacious young woman determined to go to Washington DC and make a difference in the lives of real people.