miami reflection

Within sight of downtown Miami, Biscayne National Park in Florida protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. There’s also evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents. Outdoors enthusiasts can boat, fish, snorkel, camp, watch wildlife or simply enjoy a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean. Photo courtesy of Andrew R. Slaton.

Choosing to be American

Taken from naturalization ceremonies in Denver, Milwaukee and Miami, these photos reflect a process that transcends partisan lines and elected officials. 

Oslaydis Viquillon, center, originally from Cuba, wipes tears from her eyes as she and her fellow new citizens sing “America the Beautiful” after their naturalization ceremony in Miami, FL. 170 people from 27 different countries became United States citizens during the ceremony. (Scott McIntyre)

Newly naturalized citizens celebrate with their families and take pictures after their naturalization ceremony in Miami, FL. (Scott McIntyre)

American flags on display at a naturalization ceremony in Miami, FL. (Scott McIntyre)

Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida, speaks during a naturalization ceremony in Miami, FL. (Scott McIntyre)

Hector Villarreal, 69, originally from Mexico, participates in a naturalization ceremony at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “I’m finally getting my citizenship. I should have gotten it when I served in the service, [but] I never bothered with it…my kids talked me into it to be honest with you.” (Lauren Justice)

“It’s a big change. It’s very different from where I’m from,“ said Paola Castro (right), 40, from Argentina. "We don’t have free expression [in Argentina] or liberty like we have here.” Castro has lived in the United States for 14 years and became a citizen in a naturalization ceremony in Miami, FL. (Scott McIntyre)

A participant holds an American flag at a naturalization ceremony in Denver, CO. (James Chance)

Maria Thorington, 27, from Canada, sits with her daughter Mallory at a naturalization ceremony in Denver, CO. "My husband served [this] country, I want to be a part of it.” (James Chance)

A new citizen poses with her certificate of naturalization at a ceremony at the Denver Field Office in Denver, CO. (James Chance)

Juliana Taylorkanara (center), 42, originally from Sierra Leone, participates in a naturalization ceremony at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “It’s a wonderful day, becoming a US citizen. It’s a blessing. Every version of America is beautiful, I can say. Everything. The loving, the caring, the constant help, everything. It means a lot to me.” (Lauren Justice)

Individually, the photos and their captions reveal unique motivations for being naturalized, but in their totality, convey a unity foundational to another oath that, when written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, was intended to be applicable to any citizen of any country: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Click here to view the entire photo essay “Choosing to Become an American”