When Joaquin Arciago Guzman left the Philippines in 1928 to harvest lettuce and cabbage in California’s Salinas Valley, he may have never imagined he would one day become one of the oldest people in the history of the United States to acquire legal U.S. citizenship.
Late last month, Guzman joined 7,300 others in a naturalization ceremony. According to ABC News, Guzman was originally reluctant to apply for citizenship because he was nervous about being able to answer U.S. history questions on the citizenship test. However, one of his nieces convinced him to apply for citizenship rather than renew his green card, and so he began to vigorously teach himself the information.
“From there he could not sleep,” his niece, Julie Guzman told the source. “He’d always been wondering how he is going to answer the officer. Every day he’d sleep from only 12 to 1 a.m., and he kept reading the history book. Then I said, ‘Darling you don’t need to memorize that.’”
Despite the fact that Guzman is hard of hearing and barely speaks English, his joy did not go unnoticed. According to The Associated Press, after being sworn in as a citizen, Guzman stood and declared his happiness in Tagalog, his native language.
After working as a farmer in the fields of California for over a decade, Guzman returned to the Philippines where he met his late wife. Prior to the birth of their first child, Guzman moved back to California where he continued work as a farmer to support his family. His wife and two of their six children moved to the United States in 1984, where all three of them became citizens. However, it remains unclear why Guzman waited as long as he did to apply. His daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, told the source she wishes his wife could have been present at the ceremony.
“It’s sad because she waited many years for him to become a citizen,” she told The Associated Press in Tagalog. “But I believe she’s looking down on us now, and she’s happy.”