Talon News - Good Local News



September 8, 2017

Naturalization- "It's like winning the lottery!" That is what newly naturalized American citizen Helen Oliveira exclaimed during a toast at her post citizenship celebration. Friday, August 25, a naturalization ceremony was held at The Great Kiva in the Aztec Ruins. What a perfect backdrop for becoming an American citizen! In addition to a certificate of citizenship and American Flag, the naturalized citizens received a National Parks Passport. The passport includes a map of the United States with locations of all the National Parks. Nathan Hatfield, Aztec Ruins National Monument Chief of Interpretation, encouraged the new citizens to explore their new country.

Attendees were greeted at the entrance by National Parks employees with directions to the Kiva and information about the park. Once in the Kiva, a representative of the Immigration Services Office of Albuquerque provided programs for the ceremony. Officiate Anthony P. Derieux was patient, hoping that the last few candidates would show. However, at noon, the ceremony began without them. Hard to believe they missed the ceremony, considering all the requirements for attaining citizenship. Ultimately, there were 10 participants.

Helen was one of the participants. She has lived in the United States for 14 years. Her husband, David, shared that the requirements are stringent. It is expensive; the filing fee is $640 and there is an additional service fee of $85, totaling $725. Additionally, Helen needed to demonstrate skills in American history and language. Later, Helen indicated that those absentees would have the opportunity to participate in a later ceremony. However, citizenship is not official until participating in a ceremony and taking an oath.

The ceremony at Aztec Ruins Great Kiva was moving, beginning with the Posting of the Colors by Aztec High School Army JROTC members, and the National Anthem performed by violinist Sage Lauderback. Nathan (Aztec Ruins National Monument Chief of Interpretation), welcomed everyone and made introductions. He included a short history, of the long history, of Aztec Ruins. He shared the cultural place of the Kiva in ancient civilization. He compared how it was now an important part of these new citizen's journeys in America.

The ceremony consummated with Immigration Services Officer, Isabel Nunez, presenting the Naturalization Certificates. There were six countries represented by the ten new citizens; Brazil, Germany, Jordan, Mauritania, Mexico, and the Philippines. The small group of those invited was very diverse as well. One of Helen's friends is the former Mrs. New Mexico, Summer Jakino-Whistle. There were several nuns taking pictures of multiple candidates, their enthusiasm indicated they had relationships with those people.

The Kiva that the participants and attendees sat in was discovered in 1916. It features sky lights, which appeared to be meaningful at times during the ceremony, when the sun shone on participants while taking their oaths. There was a moment when the sun shined on Helen during her oath, husband David spoke of that moment afterward.

Speaking with officer Derieux, he explained that there are many similar ceremonies throughout the year. However, he prefers these, "smaller, more intimate" ceremonies that take place in settings such as the Aztec Ruins. Some ceremonies include 100-200 people in large venues.

As for Helen, she is happy! She feels that America offers a lot of opportunity. After 14 years in the country, it was, "becoming a believer" that she feels changed her. She expressed a great feeling of gratitude to all the people that have helped her since coming to this country, and been patient with her as she learned the English language. Helen is excited about her future as an American! She is a licensed cosmetologist and recently accepted a position in the San Juan College Cosmetology program.

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