Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made waves in the US by referring to migrant detention centres near the Mexican border as “concentration camps”.
The New York congresswoman stood by her comments in the face of blowback from conservatives and some Jewish groups, who accused her of minimalising the Holocaust.
If you follow US politics, you probably already know that Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest congresswoman in US history in the November 2018 midterm elections, entering the House of Representatives at the age of 29 on behalf of New York’s 14th district. But here are five facts you might not know about Ocasio-Cortez:
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A year before her election victory, she was working as a bartender
After graduating from Boston University, with a degree in international relations and economics, Ocasio-Cortez returned to New York City, where she worked as a waitress and a bartender. She was elected to Congress one year after quitting her bartending job in Manhattan.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump derisively referred to her ambitious Green New Deal project as “done by a young bartender”, prompting a fierce response.
“I’m proud to be a bartender,” she hit back. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
“I, in fact, am encouraged when people remind the country of my past, not because of anything about my story, but because it communicates that if I could work in a restaurant and become a member of the United States Congress, so can you,” she added.
She even got back behind the bar in May as part of a campaign to raise the federal minimum wage:
Her brother kickstarted her political career
While working behind bars and waiting tables in the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez also became involved in community activism.
Her younger brother, Gabriel, submitted her name to Brand New Congress, a progressive organisation searching for promising young newcomers to run for office, Insider reports.
In December 2016, Ocasio-Cortez received a call “out of the blue” asking if she would be interested in running against veteran Democrat Joe Crowley to become the party’s next candidate in New York’s 14th district, a safe blue seat. Six months later, she launched her campaign.
She has an asteroid named after her
Ocasio-Cortez’s rise to power has frequently been called meteoric - but the youngest congresswoman in US history actually has an asteroid named after her.
For years, astronomists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Observatory have been naming newly discovered asteroids in honour of high school students who excel in high-profile science competitions.
In 2007, the then-18-year-old Ocasio-Cortez won second place at Intel's science and engineering fair with a microbiology project - and became the namesake of asteroid 23238 Ocasio-Cortez.
“The asteroid is about 1.44 miles wide, 240 million miles from Earth, and takes nearly 4 years to orbit the sun,” says Business Insider.
She is a practicing Catholic
Although Ocasio-Cortez has become the poster child of secular socialism in the US, that doesn’t mean she is anti-religion.
In fact, she was raised a Catholic and last year wrote about how her Catholic faith influences her views on the justice system in an article for America, the journal of the American Jesuit movement.
“What should be the ultimate goal of sentencing and incarceration? Is it punishment? Rehabilitation? Forgiveness? For Catholics, these questions tie directly to the heart of our faith,” she wrote.
...and a Trekkie
When actress Kate Mulgrew, better known as Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager, turned up at an Ocasio-Cortez rally last year to offer her support, it was no coincidence. The freshman congresswoman is an avowed fan, tweeting about her love for the show on multiple occasions.
In an interview with the Daily Mail in March, her mother confirmed the important role the sci-fi drama, one of the first to boast a female lead, had on the young Ocasio-Cortez with a moving anecdote.
“One of the last things she did with her dad before he died was sit with him and watch a Star Trek: Voyager episode on TV,” Blanca Ocasio-Cortez said. “In one scene, Captain Janeway appears, and my husband, who could no longer talk, pointed at the captain then at Alexandria, and back and forth, to say to her he thought she'd be like Captain Janeway one day, someone in charge.”
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