On January 28, 2019, I received my Swiss passport, but on March 28, along with over a thousand other new citizens, I celebrated it. Mayor Corine Mauch had extended an invitation to all new Swiss citizens residing in the city of Zürich to join her in a celebration. I am now the citizen of the USA, Spain, and Switzerland.
The USA passport was given to me by birth, the way it has been done to all people born in Puerto Rico since 1917, as a pretension of US generosity, but with the main goal of recruiting more able men to fight in WWI. My grandfather who was born in Toros, Spain migrated to Puerto Rico in the early twentieth century allowing me to receive the Spanish passport as an inheritance. An unexpected surprise later in my life, I obtained my Swiss passport after seven years of marriage to Petra, a Swiss citizen. Of all three, it is the one I feel I have truly earned because I, voluntarily and for love, moved here to live with her.
So it was fitting that a party to celebrate it was organized. It is a bit of a lucky strike because not all Swiss cities organize a celebration for its new citizens. Zürich happens to have a socialist leadership who openly welcomes immigrants, unlike its right-wing counterparts. The mayor, an open lesbian, was sick, and instead the finance director took to the podium. He expressed how important citizenship is as a ticket to voting in the many propositions and elections that take place at the local, city, cantonal, and federal levels, and thus as a way to help shape the future of one’s community. Equally meaningful was his message that while integration to Swiss society is paramount, we should not leave behind the good customs from our own lands, which hopefully can become part of the Swiss character.
The crowd of over 1,000 people represented a third of all the newly minted citizens from over fifty countries, including Sudan and Puerto Rico :) The majority were Germans followed by Italians, and Portuguese. The activity was musicalized by the Young Brass Orchestra of Zürich led by a lively conductor who looked like Steve Jobs.
After the speech, there was an interview with a new citizen from Belgium conducted by a local TV reporter, also an immigrant from Iran. At the end we all stood up and sang the Swiss national anthem, printed on the program for the benefit of all, and led by the orchestra and a young female singer. The lyrics were too religious and godly for my taste, but nevertheless I joined the chorus.
It was a special ocassion and I felt good to be welcomed as a member of a new country and society, something I had not experienced with my previous two nationalities. The activity was capped by an ápero of wine and finger food where all participants shared in camaraderie. This was a unique gathering because we, and especially Petra, felt we could just walk up to anyone (strangers), and strike up a conversation, something unheard of in this part of Switzerland. We met new Swiss citizens from Angola, Germany, Korea, Italy, Peru, and the Netherlands.
I have already used my citizenship benefits by voting in favor of progressive measures and against the anti-immigrant right wing parties, particularly the SVP.
Here are a few highlights from the activity.