Grateful for a new country


Atanacio Nieto

Atanacio Nieto says he has much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

After living in Mexico and the United States about the same number of years, the 35-year-old owner of La Cabana Mexican Rest?aurant in Hillsboro, chose to make Kansas and America his permanent home.

Nieto became a naturalized U.S. citizen after passing the citizenship test and satisfying all the requirements of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a part of Homeland Security.

?I love this country,? he said, ?and I think the people in Hillsboro are very special.?

For the first part of his life, Nieto said he was raised in Mexico, where he completed high school and college, yet he also visited family in the United States.

?My uncles would bring me to the United States, but mostly I lived in Mexico,? he said.

Born in Cortazar, Guana?juato, in the southern part of Mexico, Nieto said his father had a lumber yard and trucking business.

As a young man, he traveled back and forth between Mexico and Texas visiting his mother?s family.

Nieto said he visited or stayed for short periods of time in Houston, Pasadena and other Texas cities. ?For many years I went back and forth from Mexico to Texas,? he said.

But after he got married, Nieto said he decided to stay in Mexico and help his father in the lumber and trucking business.

At age 19, Nieto said he took a vacation to Florida and while in this country took time out to spend Christmas with his sister in Iola.

Not long after that Nieto and his brother returned to Iola to help their sister at a dairy farm for two months.

He then spent the next six years in the restaurant business but decided he didn?t want to do that anymore.

?I started servicing oil wells and one day while working in the area, I came to Hillsboro for lunch,? he said.

He said he noticed there were no Mexican restaurants in town.

After leaving Hillsboro, Nieto got to thinking about opening his own restaurant and on Nov. 17, 2006, La Cabana became a part of the community.

It has been something he knows was the right decision.

La Cabana recently celebrated its second anniversary and Nieto continues to make improvements.

He and wife Laura have four children?two boys and two girls, ages 7, 5, 3 and 2. They have lived in Kansas for 14 years, but for Nieto, there was still something he wanted to accomplish.

?I had my green card,? he said, ?but I wanted to become a U.S. citizen.?

It wasn?t going to be easy. He said he needed to study everything from the U.S. history, starting with the name of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to America, to who is the current president.

Some of the 100 questions he answered included how many stripes are on the flag? And, who is chief justice of the Supreme Court?

He needed to learn about women?s rights and who the president was during different periods of American history.

The reward for his efforts materialized in mid-summer this year when Nieto received the good news that he had become a U.S. citizen?complete with a certificate and an Ameri?can passport.

Now that Nieto has completed a long-time dream, he is refocusing on his restaurant and improvements. As an American citizen, Nieto said he is contented about where he and his wife are raising their children.

?In Hillsboro, I have not seen or met anyone who hasn?t been caring,? he said, ?and I am so glad to be here.?

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