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Sophia Martinez

Sophia Martinez, owner of La Guadalupana restaurant in Britt, became a U.S. citizen last month. 

BRITT | Sophia Martinez came to the United States from Mexico when she was 17. 

"It was one of my dreams to own my own business and my other dream was to be a U.S. citizen," the 39-year-old said during an interview at La Guadalupana, the restaurant she owns in Britt. 

Now both dreams have come true. 

Martinez became a citizen during a naturalization ceremony in Des Moines last month – just in time for her to get registered and vote. 

Martinez said that's one of the biggest reasons why she wanted to become a citizen. 

Although she got her green card 10 years ago and has been a permanent resident of the United States since then, she needed to be a citizen to cast a ballot. 

"I love this country so much, so why not?" she said. 

Martinez took her 18-year-old son, Nathan Cabrera, who was born in the United States, and her friend, Renee Diemer, with her to the naturalization ceremony. 

"It was very emotional," Martinez said. 

Martinez was one of 35 people who became citizens that day. They represented 19 different countries. 

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After coming to the United States, Martinez lived in Washington, D.C., Nebraska and Minnesota before settling in Britt.  

"This community welcomed me from day one," she said. 

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After working and saving money for 10 years, she opened La Guadalupana in 2015.

The restaurant serves Mexican dishes prepared from recipes handed down from Martinez's parents and her grandmother.  

Once she applied for citizenship, it took her about a year to complete the process. 

In addition to having a green card for at least five years, good moral character and the ability to read, write, and speak basic English, those who wish to become American citizens must pass a test on U.S. government and history. 

Martinez had nine months to prepare for her naturalization interview. She was given a book on civics to study.

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"It's very easy if you study the book," she said.  

During the interview she had to correctly answer six out of 10 questions about U.S. government and history.  

After that she had to wait for a letter inviting her to a citizenship ceremony. 

Martinez said to her, America is all about realizing your dreams. 

"So far I have made all my dreams come true," she said. 

Her advice to other immigrants is to "work hard and dream big." 

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