This has been a tough year for my love story with the USA. Between racial turmoil, the Capitol attack and political division around the pandemics. But even a decade after I wrote this love letter and said "I do," our romance stands strong.
A Love Letter to the United States on my Naturalization Day (November 2010)
I’m not marrying you for your money, or your social position. I’m not marrying you because society is pushing me or because “it’s time.” I’m marrying you simply because I love you.
When I first started getting to know you, over a decade ago, I didn’t imagine I’d fall for you this way. I admit that you did impress me with your amazing skyscrapers and highways, your incredibly well-stocked grocery stores and your shopping centers — even the fact that electricity and water always worked amazed me. But back then, coming from a place where chaos and lawlessness are the daily bread, you felt too strict, so full of rules — so stiff. Why make such a big deal about someone going over the speed limit or flying through a stop sign? Wasn’t that normal? And what was that big taboo about “the open container law.” I don’t drink, but half the people I knew couldn’t conceive of going to the beach without a beer or a bottle of rum in their hands. Wasn’t partying what the beach was all about?
Seeing so many prohibitions signs and hearing about so many rules, I assumed you were boring and lacked passion. And coming from a place where respect for human rights was so foreign, your constant talking about them felt weird to me. I was suspicious, and I could swear you were hiding something.
Furthermore, you had all those little quirks I couldn’t understand and felt almost freaky. Quirks such as s’mores (who needs triple the calories when the chocolate is the only thing I care about?), or Black Friday, (really? Who wants to be run over by a mob just to save a few dollars?) Or that other strange phenomenon: people who couldn’t swing their hips when dancing if their lives depended on it.
And then there were more serious quirks, like those sporadic hints of racism and xenophobia which turned me off. It took me a while to realize that those traits are not you, they just happen to come with you, like annoying in-laws. People with whom I have to put up, learning to take the bad with the good, and not let them get to me.
Then, my first son, Gabriel, was born. Almost by osmosis my baby was growing into an All-American little boy. He was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with his little hand on his chest as soon as he could talk well — and correcting my English pronunciation even before that. Because of him, in order to be more involved in his life, I started making an effort to get to know you, America, better.
As I learned more about you I started to understand that there was joy and passion in you. It was just that your way to express them was different from mine. I learned to love your barbecues and fireworks every Fourth of July, and your family gatherings and eating binges on Thanksgiving. I started looking forward to Halloween costumes and even to the Super Bowl — if only to watch the funny ads. We developed a wonderful friendship.
But before I fell in love with you, a change needed to happen in me. I needed to grow and mature, to develop a taste for order, for ambition and for human rights. I needed to learn to love and respect myself before I could appreciate the respect you have always given me. I had to learn to see life in a different light before the words “Freedom” and “Pursuit of Happiness” spoke to my heart. I now realize that you have given me the most mature love I ever received: The type of love that makes you want to grow, to get higher, to break with your self-imposed limitations and be all you can be. When you find the person (or the country) that can make you feel that way, you know you’re privileged.
Some of my friends and relatives don’t approve of my decision to marry you. They enumerate your defects and argue, for example, “How can you do this? This is the same country that invades other nations.” I just answer, “I know.” Loving you doesn’t mean I have to agree with you in everything. This is not blind love. My eyes are open to your imperfections. I know about your little idiosyncrasies which sometimes annoy me and make me want to roll my eyes. But I also know about your undeniable virtues which make up for everything else. I know about your generosity, about the way you teach me to dream big, and about your ideals of equality and justice which resonate with my soul.
But before I fell in love with you, a change needed to happen in me. I needed to grow and mature, to develop a taste for order, for ambition and for human rights. I needed to learn to love and respect myself before I could appreciate the respect you have always given me
I don’t have to commit marry to you (become a citizen). I’ve been doing just fine with our previous agreement (being a resident). I have all the rights I need, since until now I hadn’t been interested in voting. More than additional rights, getting married to you will bring more responsibilities (And I’m not crazy about being called for Jury Duty or having to go to war). However, if that’s what it takes to know that I’m yours and you are mine, I’ll take it. I guess I ran out of other ways to express my love.
I know that no matter how many times I say that “our love isn’t going to change because of a legal document,” the truth is that for you, for the world, this is important. And if a legal document is what it takes to prove my love to you, I’ll do it.
Now I say “I do.” I promise to continue to love you. I promise to respect you and be faithful to you. That means that when you make mistakes I will not run to my friends to badmouth you — like the wife complaining about her husband — but instead I will ask myself, “what can I do to help?” I promise to be faithful in good times and bad times, in sickness and in healthcare reform (God help us), in times of prosperity and times of recession.
I grew up hearing that it was my obligation to love the country in which I was born. I had no say in that matter. Even battered children are expected to love the same parents who abuse them. Since I wasn’t born here, my love for you is not the love for a parent, but the love for a life partner: It doesn’t come from obligation; it comes from choice, adult, conscious choice. You earned it. At the same time, I’m not your blood child who has your love guaranteed as a birthright, so I’m very grateful for it. This is, in my opinion, ideal mature love — nobody feels entitled to anything; nobody takes the other for granted, so we are deeply thankful for whatever we receive from each other.
Happy Birthday, America!
All my Love,