© 2022 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Becoming Citizens In Little Havana

Creative Commons

You've probably heard of Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, Asian History Month. 

Now we have Immigrant Heritage Month -- which was unveiled Thursday during a naturalization ceremony in one of the country's most famous immigrant enclaves, Miami's Little Havana.

At the event, hosted by Miami Dade College inside Little Havana's Tower Theater, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services formally recognized June as the time to honor immigrants.

A group of 50 people were selected to be sworn in as citizens. They represented countries as far flung as India and as close as Haiti. 

But this ceremony was different because of its historical theme -- one that paid homage to previous generations of immigrants who helped shape Florida and the United States.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado was the special guest speaker. He said that becoming an American doesn't mean that you should forget your roots.

"Miami," he said, "is one of the most diverse cities in the country."

Eliset Perez is from Cuba. She led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance.. 

"I was a little bit nervous but I like doing that," said Perez.

The ceremony featured a video presentation called "Faces of America," followed by a call of all the countries being represented.

Most of the new citizens spoke of their motives, including the freedom to vote and to freely speak their minds. 

"We came to go to school to get our masters degree," said Brazil native Alinio Azvedo. speaking for himself and his wife. "We loved it so much we decided to never [go] back."

Even so, the Azvedos visit Brazil every year with their two daughters to make sure that they stay connected to their heritage.

Not everyone's experience was so smooth.

Viviana Gomez came from Colombia to study when she was 18.

"I was crying, actually," said Gomez, "because it was very hard for me to get my permanent residency and then my citizenship."

She said it was worth it because both her children were born here and it would make their life a lot less difficult.