PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio - In their one-room house, which measured about 10 by 10 feet, there was no running water, no electricity, and no beds for Jose Luis Barcenas Diaz and his nine brothers and sisters growing up in Mexico.
Each had two or three outfits of clothing, about three shirts, two pairs of pants, a pair of shoes, and no socks. There was plenty to eat, but the only toy Mr. Barcenas Diaz recalls is a bicycle he shared with his brothers.
His childhood was worlds away from that of his three young daughters, who are growing up in Toledo with scads of clothes and toys galore. It's one reason he was so pleased to become a U.S. citizen in an Independence Day ceremony at Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial Visitor's Center on Lake Erie's South Bass Island.
"In Mexico, we lived real poor," said Mr. Barcenas Diaz, 36. Economic conditions in his home area have improved significantly since he came to the United States when he was 17.
But they still don't compare to the life he can provide for his family as a basement waterproofing worker in Toledo.
He was one of 15 people who became citizens during the ceremony. Several came to the United States as youths.
Pane Van Tong was 13 when he came to the United States from Laos. He is looking forward to voting. Now 35, he would have liked to have been eligible to vote in the May primary when his employer, David Swanson, who owns the Daavlin Co. in Bryan, was running for the Republican nomination to the 74th District Ohio House seat.
Mr. Swanson lost the race. But yesterday, he was eagerly anticipating traveling to Laos with Mr. Tong in the fall.
When Daavlin employees reach their 10-year anniversary with the company, Mr. Swanson awards them $2,000 with the stipulation that they must use the money to take a trip.
Mr. Tong marked that anniversary last year, but he thought it unwise to travel to his homeland until he had his U.S. citizenship. So co-workers helped him study for the citizenship exam. A daughter of one co-worker made flashcards with facts he needed to know, such as the name of the chief justice of the United States.
He did well on the test. Now the plan is that he will go with Mr. Swanson to Laos, interpreting the Laotian language and culture for him.
Others who became citizens came to the United States for love. Lucia Cristina Biasella-Sharp was working in her native Venezuela for a glass company that was a licensee of Owens-Illinois Inc. when Randy Sharp was sent to the plant.
"I did not want to be there," said Mr. Sharp, who was 35 at the time and was assigned to an electrical engineering project he wanted to finish as soon as possible so he could return to Toledo.
But then he saw Ms. Biasella, and it was love at first sight.
"Then I wanted to be there all the time," he said of the days before she moved to northwest Ohio to be with him.
One of the biggest differences she noticed locally compared with her homeland was the level of trust that ordinary people put in each other.
In grocery stores, clerks here ask her how many oranges she has in her sack - and take her word for it as they add up her bill. In stores where she shopped in Venezuela, clerks would have wanted to count the fruit themselves.
"It's a nice feeling. And it makes you accountable," she said of the northwest Ohio method of doing business.
Here are the 15 new citizens naturalized and their countries of origin:
China - Shen Zheng.
India - Priti Jagdishchandra Shah and Natasha Kumar.
Iraq - Bashar Habeeb Younan.
Israel - Tamar Levine.
Laos - Pane Van Tong.
Lebanon - Nabhan Ibrahim Zaitoun and Dib Joseph Habbouche.
Malaysia - Wah Chai Lee.
Mexico - Roberto Cordova Valadez and Jose Luis Barcenas Diaz.
Russia - Ivan Vasilyevich Goryushin.
Thailand - Nak Ly.
Ukraine - Irina Semenovna Zolotarev.
Venezuela - Lucia Cristina Biasella-Sharp.31.02375 75.40457