A Caribbean Christmas for Justice Sotomayor

AP News
Posted: Dec 16, 2009 1:55 PM

Sonia Sotomayor showed off her Spanish skills and love of Puerto Rican food Wednesday on her first visit to Puerto Rico as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

At a news conference on arrival at San Juan's international airport, the court's first Hispanic judge said that she was delighted to return to her parents' Caribbean homeland.

"My mother and I want to extend a warm embrace to our beloved island of Puerto Rico," said Sotomayor in Spanish. Her mother was due to join her for visits with family members.

She took only one question. Asked about her plans, she quipped: "I am going to eat mofongo" _ a local delicacy made from mashed plantains.

Sotomayor, who was born in New York, became a celebrity in this U.S. territory following her nomination by President Barack Obama. She was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice in August, culminating a rise from a poor and difficult childhood in public housing projects in the Bronx that many here see as symbolic of islanders' achievements on the U.S. mainland.

The chief judges of local and U.S. federal courts invited Sotomayor to visit, and she is expected to address members of the judiciary and other groups on Thursday and Friday.

Sotomayor's mother, Celina Sotomayor, hails from Lajas in the island's southeast and her father, who died when she was 9, was from San Juan. They moved to New York during World War II.