Today Natalia registered and voted for the first time as a U.S. citizen

Photos by Lynn Janes and Carol Miller

Article mostly by Carol Miller, with added comments from Natalia's husband Victor.

At 28 years old, Natalia left Guadalajara, Mexico by bus in 1972 and traveled 1500 miles to Tijuana, Mexico. When she arrived in Tijuana, she asked the people at the hotel she stayed in if they knew anyone who could help her get to the United States, and they put her in touch with a man who could help her. The coyote charged her $250 and took her to the border in his vehicle. When they arrived at the point of entry, the agent asked Natalia if she was an American citizen and she responded with a question, "What?' Then he looked at her and said, "You are!"

Natalia was fleeing her life in Mexico. As a teenager she had met a young affluent man who was in college. They had fallen in love, and he promised marriage to her after he completed his studies. During that time, 2 children were born to them: a boy in 1968, and a girl in 1970. But after the man graduated, he changed his promise, and their relationship deteriorated rapidly.

Leaving her children in Guadalajara, Natalia made her way to Redlands, California, where she had good friends, and she began working as soon as she arrived there. She worked as a night janitor, in a factory making fluorescent lighting, and in a packing house packaging oranges. When she had saved enough money, she asked her employer if she could take leave and return to Mexico to get her children. They granted her request. In 1973, she brought her two children to America and while she continued to work, her friends took care of her son and daughter.

Natalia met Victor Tomaso at the Mitten Letter Factory in Redlands, CA, where they both worked. They began dating in 1975 and in October 1976, they were married.

Natalia never really thought much about her right to vote until 2016. She was hearing about Donald Trump as a presidential candidate and his opposition, Hillary Clinton. She began paying attention to the platforms they were running on and decided that her values lined up better with Republican philosophies, rather than the Democrat philosophies.

One of the things that helped her to develop her own thoughts about politicians was a film called, "Protocol," with actress Goldie Hawn. Hawn plays a cocktail waitress who prevents the assassination of an Arab official and becomes a national hero.

Natalia and Victor moved to Silver City in April 2004, 20 years ago.

It has taken her about seven years to completely decide what she wanted to do, as she was a legal resident of the USA. In September 2023, Natalia filled out a citizenship application and sent in $645 as she was told to do, but the entire application was returned because she had paid $30 too much. Twice, she drove 320 miles to get fingerprinting done by the FBI because one set of fingerprints was lost. She drove another time to El Paso to take the test for citizenship. It was not an easy path, but she persevered.

On Friday, May 10, 2024, in Las Cruces, she was sworn in as a citizen along with 215 others.

She registered at the Grant County Clerk's office today and voted as an American citizen for the first time on Monday, May 20, 2024. She is 79 years old.

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