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NPR Arts & Life

Hearing From New American Citizens This Independence Day

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Fourth of July is next week, a day to reflect on what it means to be an American. We wanted to hear from you, specifically people who recently became citizens, to find out what it's like to be a new American on America's Independence Day.

MARIANA TORREALBA: My name is Mariana Torrealba (ph). And I immigrated here to the United States in 2004.

SIMON: She came from Venezuela, became a citizen in 2016.

TORREALBA: With the situation in my home country, Venezuela, I know that people would do anything to be American citizens and be able to live such a fulfilled life like we do here - that we have so much opportunities and access to everything, pretty much.

SIMON: How is she planning to celebrate the Fourth? Her family loves to grill. They also love arepas.

TORREALBA: Which is a Venezuelan traditional dish made out of ground maize dough. And we pretty much grill it, and you can fill it with whatever, so we like to mix it up. And instead of making the typical arepa, we can make a hamburger arepa. So we're trying to combine both experiences.

MATT BURT: I just became a citizen on April 25, 2018.

SIMON: Matt Burt (ph) was born in England to Australian parents. They moved to the U.S. in 1975 when he was 4.

BURT: People who have known me for years maybe didn't realize that I was an immigrant and not a U.S. citizen. It still felt a little bit different, especially when everyone is talking about politics and voting, and I was regretting having waited so long.

SIMON: No more regrets. Mr Burt, who now lives in Colorado, just voted this past Tuesday in his state's primary. Let's hear from our final new American.

ANA CECILIA PIEMONTE: So my name's Ana Cecilia Piemonte (ph). I became a United States citizen this January of 2018.

SIMON: She came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1999 at the age of 7. And for her, this July Fourth is all about family.

PIEMONTE: I feel like more than ever right now being able to share the love that I have for my family with them is so important when there are people who are being torn apart, not getting to spend time with their children. And that's something that we have taken for granted for so long, but it's such a great blessing.

SIMON: Another blessing is that she gets to celebrate the holiday with her husband. He's in the U.S. military and deploys later this year.

PIEMONTE: So this is going to be one of our very few holidays we get to spend together. He's gone for Christmas and the rest of the holidays. It's also very special because as a military wife, things like Independence Day shows what America is all about.

SIMON: Three new U.S. citizens on what Independence Day means to them. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.