“I’m going to get married to you.”
Those words completely changed the course of Cinthya’s life at age 20. While on a family vacation in Mazatlán, she met an American on the beach who was visiting México to celebrate his 21st birthday.
“It was just so funny because I didn’t know how to speak English and he didn’t know Spanish either,” remembered Cinthya. It was only through hand signals and a bilingual friend that they were able to communicate with each other. Despite the language barrier, the two formed an instant connection and fell in love.
After more than a year of dating long distance, the couple decided to get married in México. The decision on where to start their married life weighed heavily on Cinthya. At the time, she was finishing university, while her husband had family and an established career in his hometown of Redwood City. She ultimately took a leap of faith and moved to the U.S. in hopes of continuing her education.
“It was a huge step to move over here because I knew I wasn’t going to have my family support,” said Cinthya, who is the youngest of four in a close-knit family from Monterrey. “But I was young and also very excited to start a new life!”
Cinthya built a new community and career in Redwood City.
After settling in Redwood City, Cinthya immediately looked for legal support to adjust her status. She felt comfortable seeking out IIBA’s services since the team spoke Spanish. With IIBA’s support, Cinthya was able to secure her permanent residency in 2003.
“I had a very good experience,” said Cinthya. “The people who work at IIBA are nice, kind, and people who want to help you.”
Cinthya focused on studying English and adapting to her new life. Although she missed her family dearly, the Redwood City community became her new support system. Cinthya and her husband soon had a daughter, then a son a couple years later.
Through volunteering at her daughter’s Spanish immersion school, Cinthya became inspired to obtain credentials to become a teacher. She achieved this goal and has been teaching second grade at the same school her daughter once attended for over eight years.
“My students have become like my own kids,” said Cinthya, whose students affectionately call Maestra Cinthya. “They hold a special place in my heart.”
Cinthya constantly wrestled with the question of citizenship.
As a proud Mexican, Cinthya feared becoming an American citizen would jeopardize an important part of her identity. At the same time, she wanted to set an example for her students and protect the deep roots she has developed in her Redwood City community.
“I have my children here, my family, everything that I have been working so hard for,” said Cinthya. “I realized that could all disappear just because I’m not a citizen.”
She decided to pursue citizenship knowing that despite her conflicted feelings, both countries are home to her. She again turned to IIBA for legal support, and after almost 20 years in the United States, Cinthya became an American citizen in September 2022.
“It took a while, but I am here,” said Cinthya, who was overwhelmed with emotions during the oath ceremony. “The words in the pledge of allegiance meant something to me for the first time.”
As a U.S. citizen, Cinthya wants to give back to her community.
Upon becoming a U.S. citizen, Cinthya immediately registered to vote. She is excited to vote on representatives and laws impacting her community, as well as volunteer at the polls to help Spanish speakers.
“Now I have a voice, I can vote, and I have that freedom,” said Cinthya. “It counts, even if it’s just one vote. One person counts.”