Sunday, February 5, 2012

22 Years in the Making

After 22 years of living in the United States, I decided it was time to make my residence in this country official. Last month, I submitted the N-400 Application for Naturalization to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Although this brought a true sense of relief and accomplishment, as though a weight had been lifted off my chest, it also brought quite a lot of mixed emotions. The fact that I will have to renounce my Guatemalan citizenship, the country where my essential values and where my culture and traditions were instilled; where Spanish, my native language, was introduced to me, and where my sense of belonging and connection lays. Now, I have to prepare to take the full oath of allegiance to the United States. This made me feel quite sad, but I have to realize that I will always be Guatemalan at heart and soul. Nothing can take that away from's part of my being. It's what has shaped me and what has given me the motivation to be who I am today.

I also realized that these past 22 years, I have already been taking the oath of allegiance to this country. The U.S. has been my home and I respect it and appreciate it as such. I have grown and gained so much during the years I've been living here. I have now spent more of my life here in the U.S. than in Guatemala; and I have also gained a new set of values and beliefs that I identify with, which have definitely shaped me as well. I am thankful for all the opportunities I have received and for the accomplishments I have carried out in this country. I will soon call the United States my official home. Just like when we move houses throughout life, Guatemala is the childhood home where I grew up. 

For the longest time, I felt displaced…a feeling of not belonging here nor in Guatemala. I would feel it even more when visiting my family in Guatemala. While out and about, I would notice how people would treat me and see me, just like they would a tourist. That feeling has slowly been fading away…I have made peace with it and I don’t let it get to me. Each time I’m in Guatemala, I make sure to soak it all in and always bring something back with me to incorporate in my home here in the U.S.. This makes me feel connected and present.

I try to visit Guatemala once a year and each visit energizes me and makes me see how fortunate I am to be able to call two places, two countries, home. In addition to being bilingual, I am now truly bicultural. It's amazing, but till this day, each time my flight is preparing to land in Guatemala, I get overemotional and tears come down my face; it never fails. That feeling is what makes me rest assure, that becoming a U.S. citizen will not negate my deep connection with Guatemala...or as the character Agador Spartacus from the movie The Bird Cage would say, my Guatemalaness ;)