In 2000, Lorna Cervantes was on spring break with some girlfriends in Cancun, Mexico. She was taking a day trip to see a local bullfight when a winsome young man working the ticket booth caught her eye.
They exchanged numbers. He called her every week after she returned to the United States.
In 2001, they were married, and seven years later, Enrique Cervantes - looking sharp in a crisp suit and tie - stood in front of a crowded auditorium and became an American citizen.
Mr. Cervantes was one of 28 people who were naturalized yesterday at the Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate in downtown Toledo.
"It was a big venture to come to America," Mr. Cervantes said. "But when you're in love, you take the risk."
A variety of reasons - love, professional opportunities, family in the United States - drew the new citizens to seek American shores, but one theme was woven throughout the majority of testimonies:
"I came here for a better life," said Francisco Sanson Garcia, a native of Mexico.
U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary hosted the ceremony, which included the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Sameera Chaudhary, a student at the University of Dayton School of Law, and a plaintive rendition of "America the Beautiful" by local musicians Nicole Khoury and Mick Mason.
"America's strength comes from the diversity of our citizens," Judge Zouhary said. "Today we showcase your names and add them to the fabric of our country."
Patriotism was plentiful at yesterday's ceremony.
A large American flag stood at attention next to the podium. Several audience members sported shades of red and blue. Children waved miniature flags as their relatives received naturalization certificates.
For keynote speaker Bhaskarappa Jakkaraddi, originally from India, the day was doubly meaningful: It was also his birthday.
"I've traveled to many countries and found America the best because this is the first country that was founded with a purpose," Mr. Jakkaraddi said. That purpose, he explained, was that "all men are created equal."
Judge Zouhary spoke about the values of America's founding fathers, and quoted definitions of patriotism coined by Barack Obama -"a very particular love for and faith in one another as Americans" - and John McCain -"the willing acceptance from Americans to try to make a nation in which all people share in the promise and responsibility of freedom."
Judge Zouhary cited the obligations of citizenship as voting, volunteering, sacrificing for the greater good - and jury duty.
"Your accents are beautiful notes to the founding American chorus," Judge Zouhary said. "You help sustain our democracy."
Mr. Cervantes, who was flocked by his two small children, spoke with sheepish pride of his new family and his job as diamond department manager for the local Jared the Galleria of Jewelry.
"It's been a great honor to be here," Mr. Cervantes said. "I've been very blessed to meet wonderful people. And that's not a speech. I mean it."
Those who became citizens and their countries of origin are:
Australia - Julie Anne Higby
Antigua Barbuda - Stephen Emanuel Williams
Belgium - Martin Maria De Beukelaer and Andrea Jozefina Pieter De Beukelaer
Canada - Iris Katherine Castillo, Douglas Charles Comrie, and William Mark Moir
Chile - Denise Francoise Shultz
Colombia - Catherine Helena Pina Parra
Egypt - Fatma El Sweafi Amer
Guyana - John McArthur Jemmott
India - Bhaskarappa Jakkaraddi
Iran - Abdollah Aliakbarkha Afjeh
Jamaica - Alecia Nohumia Mullings
Lebanon - Wafi Mounir Reda
Mexico - Enrique Cervantes, Salomon Flores, Francisco Sanson Garcia, Catalina Dominguez Martinez, and Patricia Trausch
Nigeria - Valentine Chukwuebuka Ononye
Pakistan - Sobia Farooqi Zafar
People's Republic of China - Liangyin Xie, Wenmin Wayne Zhang
Philippines - Maria Elizabeth Joseph
Romania - Nicolai Salgau, Sr.
Syria - Michael Alkhatib
Turkey - Berna Ovacikli
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