Her right hand over her thumping heart, Ayde Kuyers recited the words in unison with others gathered at the ceremony.
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty … that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
The place: Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The date: Sept. 30, 2016.
These are important details. Years from now, their grandchildren will ask them about these things. And they’ll tell them how, on that day, they saw tears from around the world—35 countries, all told.
All reciting the 140-word oath in unison.
Kuyers had forgotten a tissue.
She finished her oath: “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, so help me God.”
The Mexico City native, born Christmas Day in 1974, had become an American.
“It was really emotional,” Kuyers remembers. “I actually saw my dad crying.”
Kuyers is now an administrative assistant in the nursing department at Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital. It’s been a long and storied road to this point.
She met her husband, Douglas, years ago when he visited Mexico City for a business trip. She soon obtained her green card and a visa, the green card serving as proof that its holder could live and work in the U.S.
On Dec. 23, 2000, Kuyers and her husband embarked on a 2,200-mile road trip: Mexico City to Zeeland, Michigan.
Kuyers left behind her home city of 8.6 million people and headed to one with 5,800 people.
Leaving her family behind proved to be the hardest part.
“I was 26 and it was a big transition,” she said. “All of my family was down there. It was challenging.”
She remembers her first reaction on arriving to Michigan: “Where are the mountains?”
Her second reaction: “It was really cold. Everything was cold.”
She had a bigger surprise the next morning: her neighbors. She hadn’t noticed it when she arrived the night prior, but her new home stood next to a cemetery.
“He told me the next day,” she said. “I was like, ‘Whoa.’”
She adjusted and grew and, more recently, gained a new citizenship.
It wasn’t an easy process, Kuyers said.
“I filled out the form for citizenship,” she said. “I studied U.S. history, civics, passed an oral, reading and writing exam and a criminal background check. The process took about six months.”
She beamed with pride as she cast her very first vote in the race for U.S. president.
“Being a U.S. citizen is an honor,” she said. “To be part of the freedoms this country offers is a privilege.”