When Patrocinia G. Guisado de Guerad was born in 1916, Cuba had only recently emerged as an independent republic — after nearly four centuries of Spanish colonial rule and several years of U.S. administration.
Her earliest memories are of growing up in a farm near Yara, the historic site where in 1868 plantation owner Carlos Manuel de Cespedes launched the island’s first rebellion against Spain. She also remembers meeting President Gerardo Machado, a general in the war of independence who ruled Cuba from 1925 to 1933 and was succeeded by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes y Quesada — son of the Yara planter who launched the initial rebellion.
Guisado de Guerad, who will turn 100 on St. Patrick’s Day next year, will swear allegiance to the United States Friday during a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale where she also will change her name to Patricia.
“I always wanted to be called Patricia, instead of Patrocinia,” Guisado de Guerad said during an interview in Sunrise in West Broward, where she lives with her large family. She has three children, five grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great-granddaughters, who are not yet a year old each.
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Thousands of so-called centenarians become U.S. citizens every year. In fiscal year 2013, for example, 19,876 immigrants 100 or older were naturalized, according to figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The oldest person on record to have naturalized is Manik Bokchalian, from Turkey, who became a U.S. citizen in 1997 in Los Angeles when she was 117.
The oldest man on record to naturalize was Chao Por Xiong, from Laos, who became a U.S. citizen in 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin., when he was 106, according to USCIS.
As for Guisado de Guerad, she was born in Rio Seco, a town in Yara. She lived on a farm where they raised cows and horses.
“I used to ride the horses all the time,” she said.
Her husband was a florist and she worked in the house raising her three children — Pedro, Migdalia and David. David is 74, Migdalia is 69 and Pedro, 59, and they all live in South Florida.
Guisado de Guerad and her family fled Cuba in the 1960s during the so-called Freedom Flights. She obtained permanent residence on Oct. 14, 1969.
The family resettled first in New York City where they lived for 45 years. She and her husband, Armando Augusto Guerad, who died in 2008, were married for 67 years. She moved to South Florida four years ago.
“I miss New York a lot,” she said.
Now that she is becoming a citizen, Guisado de Guerad said one of her first actions will be to register to vote and cast her first ballot in the 2016 presidential election. She said she is not yet sure who she likes of the many candidates.
“But I’m happy to become a citizen and be able to vote,” she said.
Though she does not remember many events in the past, she has a clear recollection of the answers she needed to provide for citizenship requirements.
“Who was the first president of the United States?” Pedro Guerad, her youngest child, asked during the interview.
“Washington,” she replied.
“When is Independence Day celebrated?” her son asked.
“The Fourth of July,” she shot back, smiling.
When asked what was her favorite music, Guisado de Guerad answered: Guantanamera, Cuba’s best-known song. But she also said she enjoyed reggaeton.
“It’s a catchy music,” she said.