With the rise and fall of her right hand, an oath of allegiance and a wave of a miniature American flag, Juana Hernández joined nearly 150 people becoming United States citizens Tuesday morning.
She stood out from the crowd of teary and smiling applicants standing and singing the national anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance because Hernández is 101 years old.
Her family said she made the decision, after permanently moving from Tegucigalpa, Honduras eight years ago, because she was encouraged by her daughter, Maria Rosario Corrales. Before moving to Miami permanently, Hernández had traveled between the two countries to visit and support her family for decades. She and Corrales now live in Little Havana.
“It was mostly my mom who tried to teach her to become a U.S. citizen,” said Rafael Hernández, Juana’s grandson. “My mom and my kids, we’re all very happy about it.”
Hernández also hopes to encourage two of her sons still living in Honduras to become U.S. citizens.
“I want them to come,” she told the Herald in an interview in Spanish.
Hernández was among applicants of all ages from 37 countries taking part in the final naturalization ceremony of 2015 at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Miami field office. Section Chief Yasser Navarrete said that even after overseeing multiple ceremonies, he always finds them special because of people like Hernández.
“At the end of the day there’s a common denominator for everyone and that’s what makes it special,” Navarrete said.
She will join some of the oldest citizens to be naturalized across the country. The oldest person to become a U.S. citizen was Manik Bokchalian, a Turkish immigrant who took her oath in Los Angeles in 1997 at age 117.
It was mostly my mom who tried to teach her to become a U.S. citizen. My mom and my kids, we’re all very happy about it..
Rafael Hernández, Juana’s grandson.
The Hernández family plans to have a party in honor of Juana’s citizenship, and her grandson said she might have inspired other family members to complete the naturalization process.
“Everybody’s been going through paperwork and the process to get on the bandwagon,” Hernández said.
Navarrete said he relates to the process as he came to the United States from Nicaragua at a young age with his parents.
“It’s a nice way to end the year for everyone involved, and now they can go off and celebrate the new year as U.S. citizens,” Navarrete said.