Francisco Villa says his heart will always belong to Chile. The 40-year-old industrial engineer came from his native Santiago, Chile 13 years ago when a job opportunity in his field became available in the United States.
Since then, he has been a law-abiding citizen in the United States and began the citizenship process in order to enjoy the same rights and privileges as all citizens who are born in this country enjoy.
"I came here with a work permit. After two years, I applied to be a resident and have been going through the process since then. It's good to finally become a citizen of this country," said Villa.
Last Monday, he was one of four Chileans in a group of 1,170 people representing over 67 countries who became naturalized citizens. The special ceremony was held at the Fresno Convention Center.
He said his new citizenship status does not mean he will lose his cultural traditions as they are practiced in his native country, even though he has made the United States his new and permanent home.
"I celebrated Chile's independence day yesterday. For us, it is a two-day event that begins Sept. 18 and goes through Sept. 19. In general, my whole family gets together to eat empanadas and we dress in the traditional attire," said Villa.