Traveling to México to visit family and friends just got easier for 92-year-old María Luz Martínez Donante, one of 314 San Joaquín Valley residents who became U.S. citizens last Tuesday.
“I love it here in the United States,” said Martínez Donante, who came to the U.S. from San Gregorio, Guanajuato, México in 1991.
But, she also loves getting to visit loved ones in México at least once a year. She figures that the trip will be much easier now with her U.S. citizenship.
“I’ll go visit for Christmas, but I really want to get back quickly,” said Martínez Donante, who has three of her five children still living in México.
She will be voting in November, but she won’t say how she will cast her vote for U.S. president.
“I know which candidate I don’t like,” she smiled.
Martínez Donante widowed in 1982. Her husband was a former bracero who worked in the fields. She grew nopales in México that she would sell.
Another elderly woman, 86-year-old Apolonia Quiroz of Tulare, proudly waved her small U.S. flag during the naturalization ceremony at the Fresno Convention Center.
Of the 314 new citizens, 202 came from México. India was next with 25, and El Salvador was third with 11. They represented 32 countries, including Chile (1), Colombia (1), Costa Rica (1), Guatemala (4) and Honduras (2).
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who was joined by his wife and three children at the ceremony, stressed the importance to exercising their newly acquired right to vote.
“You all have a voice. We all have an equal voice,” said Padilla. “But our voice can’t be heard if you don’t register and vote.”
The presidential election, said Padilla, has gained a lot of interest.
“But, every election is important,” said Padilla, who is rumored to be interested in running for the U.S. Senate should Sen. Dianne Feinstein retire. “Two years from now, we’ll be voting for governor for this state. That is just as important too.”
Every election, he said, is important whether it’s for school board, city council or county supervisor.
Padilla told them that voting is only part of their new responsibilities.
“The American Dream is alive and well,” he said. “Each and every one of you has an equally powerful story. I encourage you to share your stories because it makes this country stronger.”