NEW YORK – At age 99, a woman named America has become a U.S. citizen.
America Maria Hernandez, who was born in Colombia in 1917 and was brought to the U.S. by one of her daughters in 1988, signed her naturalization certificate and took the oath of allegiance during a ceremony Wednesday in her living room.
Surrounded by family members, she smiled and said she was very happy.
"I live in New York, the capital of the world," she said while waiving a small American flag.
Hernandez was born in October 1917 in Cordoba, Colombia, but mostly lived in Barranquilla. She had 12 children and now has 22 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.
Hernandez’s daughter Hortensia Martinez, 69, said she brought Hernandez to the U.S. so she could help her take care of her son. Hernandez arrived with a green card arranged by her daughter, who had married a U.S. citizen. Instead of renewing the card, the family asked Hernandez if she wanted to become a U.S. citizen, and she said yes.
Hernandez walks with a cane, likes to watch TV and enjoys attending activities at a local senior center at least once a week.
Asked on Wednesday what her secret for a long life is, she responded, "Being well, with my children. They all work. They are all good."
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 730,000 people became U.S. citizens in the government’s 2015 fiscal year. About 84,000 of those naturalizations were in the New York area.