Both of their journeys began in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras.
Now, next month, they will be sworn in as citizens of the United States of America.
Oscar David Otero Valladares and Maritza Rodriguez began classes at the Ardmore Public Library in the fall of 2014. Having just completed their tests and interview in December, they will be sworn in as American citizens in February after a journey that began years ago.
Oscar recalls first coming into the states and arriving at the airport, carrying his bags while traversing through the airport looking for his gate. He said he had seen America in movies, but nothing was like actually arriving to the real thing.
“I came into Houston and Dallas and felt way different,” he said with a smile. “Way different.”
Oscar said when he arrived at his family’s home, his mother told him he would need to learn English and look for a job. She told him he had just over three weeks to work on learning the language and he arrived knowing very little of it.
With challenges ahead of him, and the endeavors of learning a language and being accustomed to a new home in the foreground, Oscar said he got to work.
Maritza, who also was originally from Tegucigalpa, said initially learning the language was also a challenge, but as time drew on she began to get more comfortable with the language and the people.
“New language, new people, it’s very, very difficult,” Maritza said. “But I got use to it.”
Maritza first came to America in 2010 and met Oscar in 2012. The two were married in 2014, having found residence in the states from the same place, but with different paths. Years later, Oscar and Maritiza are finishing up their hard work and will officially become U.S. citizens.
Oscar said years after his first arrival into the states, his family suggested that he should look into obtaining citizenship. With that in mind, Oscar and Maritza began working with Elizabeth Gaylor at the Ardmore Public Library.
For a year and a half, on a weekly basis, Maritza and Oscar worked on preparing for their citizenship test. In preparation, Gaylor said the couple worked on learning 100 questions that range from civics and U.S. history to U.S. geography. They also began working on things like English conversation and filling out the forms to apply for citizenship, which is a lengthy and expensive process.
“Everyday it was 10 or 20 minutes and work and work,” Oscar said. “So when we got to the test, it was phew. It was easy. It was easy.”
Maritza and Oscar got their fingerprints in June and then did their interview and test in December. Gaylor said Maritza, who works at the library, called her as soon as she found out that she did well.
“I’m like a proud mother hen,” Gaylor said. “It just makes me so proud because I helped them and provided the resources.”
“I was just as nervous as them before the interview.”
“I am proud of having achieved my goal,” Maritza said.
With a goal and dream that started years ago now in sight, Oscar said he and Maritza can begin working toward new goals and embracing the land they can now, officially, call home.
“I feel good. I love this country. It’s my country,” Oscar said, his eyes shining. “I feel it’s my country.
“I love Ardmore. I feel it’s my home.”