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81-year-old receives citizenship

Love of family and home brought Edilia Rodriguez to the U.S., and now it is keeping the newly naturalized 81-year-old here.

On Thursday, Rodriguez received her U.S. citizenship – a wish she never dreamed would come true.

When Rodriguez, a Venezuelan native, moved to Andalusia 15 years ago to help her daughter, Maria Smith, Andalusia High School teacher, take care of her children, said she never dreamed of staying here this long.

Now, she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, she said.

“When I first came, I thought I’d stay for a while and then go back,” she said. “But every year, I’d say, ‘oh, I’ll stay a little longer.’

“I have a wonderful life,” she said. “I love everyone. The people in Andalusia are very friendly.”

Rodriguez’s love for the U.S. began long before she actually came to the states.

Her father was a Venezuelan businessman who traveled to New York City regularly and brought his family with him on occasion.

“My father would explain how great the United States was,” she said.

Rodriguez, the second of 12 children, became very fond of the U.S.

At age 21, she came to Oklahoma to study, and then worked for a Venezuelan airline for seven years, traveling back and forth between the two countries.

She also studied English at the University of Miami and married a Venezuelan man, with whom she had two children.

Rodriguez said she decided to apply for citizenship earlier this year because she loves the United States.

One can become a naturalized citizen if he or she meets the eligibility requirements, which include being over 18 years of age; be a permanent resident with a green card for at least five years; live in the state for three months prior to filing; be present in the U.S. for at least 30 months of the five years prior to application; live continuously in the U.S. once application is made until citizenship is granted; be able to read, write and speak English and have knowledge of U.S. history and civics; and take a naturalization test.

Rodriguez, who said she’s absolutely elated that she received her citizenship, said she applied for her citizenship in April.

“The Red Cross introduced me to one of Bobby Bright’s assistants, and I got help from his office,” she said. “I got my citizenship in just three months.”

Rodriguez said the ceremony was well organized, with about 150 people representing 50 different countries – the majority of whom were of Middle Eastern descent.

Rodriguez said she thinks God had his hand in her getting her citizenship.

“When you get something like citizenship, I think God wanted it,” she said. “My daughter and I traveled to Atlanta. The organizer was just perfect. We received aflag, the constitution and a letter from the president and a certificate that looks like a diploma.”

Rodriguez said she was asked five questions, but missed one, on the history of the United States.

Since Rodriguez has been in Andalusia, she has been active in projects such as Dream Park; a member of The Red Girls and St. Vincent de Paul Society at Christ the King Catholic Church.

“We help people with problems,” she said. “Helping people is something I enjoy doing.”

Rodriguez also teaches English and Spanish at the Adult Activity Center.

“I felt really good when I was there,” she said. “I know I have enough in me to be American. You have to love America and I do.”

Edilia Rodriguez shows off her Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution given to her when she became a naturalized U.S. citizen. | Kendra Bolling/Star-News