Broward County

Woman at 104 proves it’s never too late to become an American citizen

Woman, at 104, becomes American citizen

May Garcia, 104, becomes U.S. citizen at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Oakland Park office on Aug. 26, 2016.
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May Garcia, 104, becomes U.S. citizen at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Oakland Park office on Aug. 26, 2016.

Jamaica-born May Garcia decided to become a U.S. citizen after 23 years in this country and 104 years on this Earth for the most bedrock element of democracy.

“She had been watching the election coverage and said, ‘I’d love to vote,’ ” Garcia’s daughter Fay Rochester said.

So Garcia, born in Kingston in 1912, 50 years before Jamaica’s independence from Great Britain, started the naturalization process. That path ended Friday for Garcia and more than 100 others from 36 nations who took their oath of citizenship at a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in west Broward.

Afterward, she waved her arm back and forth in celebration as Pharrell’s “Happy” played in the Ceremony Room. Several other new U.S. citizens or their relatives stopped by Garcia’s chair to shake her hand.

Garcia, who lives in Lauderhill with Rochester and son-in-law Denis Rochester, said she had no problem with studying for the citizenship exam or taking the exam itself. Then again, activity keeps the mind sharp and as Garcia said, “I’m a busy person. I’m not a lazy one.”

She raised her four children in Jamaica by doing others’ laundry by hand. She came to the U.S. in 1993 at 81 to help take care of some of her 12 grandchildren (who gave her 18 great grandchildren, who gave her eight great-great grandchildren). Now, with her family spread all around the United States, she spends her days at the Sadkin Senior Community Center, where she does Zumba classes.

Saturday, she still does laundry by hand.

“We’re so happy and proud of her,” Rochester said. “At her age, she’s still going strong. She does everything for herself.”

Asked how she has extended her life so long, Garcia said, “I wasn’t a wild person. I like everything that’s nice. I don’t do things that aren’t right. I don’t like anything that’s out of the way.”

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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