On the morning of Jan. 15, Olga Torres, 40, and her husband, Rodolfo De Leon, 46, woke up at 4 a.m. to make sure they arrived at the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta before 7 a.m.
The two, who are from Mexico and permanent residents of the United States, made the trek nearly three weeks ago to register their daughter Genesis, who will be 3 years old in March, as a citizen of both countries.
During a campaign that was initially to run Jan. 12-15, the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta has allowed parents to bring their children to the consulate by 7 a.m. each day to register for dual Mexican-American citizenship. To do so, the child must have been born in the United States and have at least one Mexican parent.Usually, the consulate takes only 20 applications each weekday, but during the campaign the consulate has attended to everyone who arrived by 7 a.m.Because of high demand, the campaign has been extended through Feb. 12, according to the consulate’s Web site.
During the campaign, an average of 40 people have visited the consulate each day, and the number peaked at 87, said Armando Bello, spokesman for the consulate.
“In case they want to go back to Mexico, they can go back as Mexican citizens. If they want to come to the U.S., they can come back as American citizens,” Bello said.
As number 53 in line, De Leon and Torres were at the consulate until about 12:30 p.m. before they were processed.
The couple intends to return to Mexico someday, and dual citizenship creates opportunities for Genesis in both countries, allowing her to vote both here and in Mexico. Genesis also needs to be a Mexican citizen to attend public school there, Torres said. Both Torres and De Leon said they place a strong emphasis on education for Genesis, though neither of them finished high school.
The parents said they hope to nurture the talent that family and friends already have begun to notice in her.
“She has a certain intelligence she should take advantage of in her studies,” De Leon said.
The couple has lived in Macon since 1994 after a friend of De Leon’s found a job in Fort Valley working with peach crops. They knew almost no one in the area then, but now family from both sides lives nearby.
“I came for one year, and now it’s been (almost) 17.” said Torres, a two-year employee of Crown Candy.
After various jobs through the years, De Leon has been working for seven years at Unitrac Railroad Materials in Knoxville, Tenn., loading and unloading cargo. He comes home to visit on weekends every two weeks.
Being apart from the family has been difficult, he said, “but it isn’t easy finding a job.” This month, Torres and Genesis plan to move to Tennessee to be with De Leon.
“For me it’ll be difficult,” Torres said. “I know all the places here, my daughter’s doctor ...”
As Genesis grows up, whether in the United States or in Mexico, her parents hope her immersion in both cultures, and especially speaking both Spanish and English, will open doors.
“The person who speaks two languages is worth two,” De Leon said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.