Staunton: 73 New Americans
Story by Chris Graham
Dayanara Delgado Najarro came to America a few years back for the same reason that my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents did back in the 1730s. The operative word here is opportunity.
“I’m trying to get a better education than what I had and a better opportunity than I would have in my country. That’s actually why I came to the United States. And I do the citizen thing so I can do better things for this country,” said Najarro, of Harrisonburg, who joined 72 other new Americans in becoming naturalized U.S. citizens today at a ceremony at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton.
The occasion made Rockingham County Board of Supervisors member Pablo Cuevas recall the day 40 years ago when he became an American citizen. “This is a big day for you. I remember 40 years ago when I stood in Charlottesville in front of Monticello just like you are here today thinking about the big change that was about to happen in my life. And how I was going to be renouncing and how I was going to be taking on responsibilities and obligations to a new country. And I was going to say goodbye to my responsibilities to my native country,” Cuevas said in the keynote address at today’s ceremony.
“Not that I did not love that country. I love the country in which I was born. I love my family that raised me up to 16 and a half years of age in that country. That meant a great deal to me. But life changed. We change. And we have to accept those changes, and take those changes with pride,” Cuevas said.
“I never regretted raising my hand and taking in the swearing-in ceremonies and the obligations that went with becoming an American citizen. I’ve always been very happy with it, because it gave me the opportunity to provide for my entire family,” said Cuevas, who spent the next 17 years after becoming a citizen to get 28 members of his family out of Cuba and into the States.
Cuevas challenged the new citizens to similarly do more with their lives. “I want you to get involved. I want you to register to vote. I want you to be a part of your church. I want you to be a part of your community. I hope that you will help to raise the young children of this community in which we live. Be a little league church. Participate in any kind of activity that will make this country a better place in which to live,” Cuevas said.
“It’s an exciting day. It’s really, really exciting. I can do many things for this country and also for my family. Being a citizen is the only way that I can make change for the community and make this be a better country,” Najarro said.