A few months shy of her 10th anniversary on the federal bench, Sonia Sotomayor flew to a law conference across the country from her native New York to give a speech that explored her ethnic identity and her role as a judge in strikingly personal terms. She evoked childhood memories: pigs’ feet and beans, the sound of merengue at family parties, Saturday-night bingo games with her grandmother calling out the numbers while the children used chickpeas to mark their cards.

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