Silver Bay woman becomes citizen in state's largest ceremonyOn Jan. 24, Cristina Manahan of Silver Bay and more than 1,300 immigrants from 100 countries became citizens of the United States.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Cristina Manahan lives in Silver Bay, in a geodesic dome overlooking Lake Superior with husband, Jim, and their canine companions, Jiffy and Fritz. But before moving to the area, she spent much of her time between Chile and Berlin. She has traveled extensively, raised three daughters, two of whom still live in South America, and has given time and energy to numerous social and public health initiatives along the way.
She calls herself a citizen of the world, but on Jan. 24, the world came to Minnesota in a ceremony at the Minneapolis Convention Center — the largest of its kind in state history — as Manahan and more than 1,300 immigrants from 100 countries became citizens of the United States. Witnessing were her husband, sister-in-law and four friends.
“It was very beautiful to see the children, so many colors from all over the world,” she said, her ready smile brightening to talk about it. “Everyone was speaking different languages, but also English.”
Manahan said that people stood as their countries of origin were called. Some rose alone as the single representative of their homelands. Others, present in greater numbers, cheered and shouted in unison, many holding small American flags. Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan then called the children to the stage and led all assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance. Manahan said she was moved by Boylan’s words.
“‘We want you to embrace your history, but we want you to know you belong,’” she paraphrased the judge, saying his words held particular meaning for her because of her long history of volunteerism and social activism.
She was born and grew up in Cuba, lived and worked in Berlin before and after the reunification of east and west, and she has seen extreme wealth and devastating poverty all over the world, including in the United States.
“It was very emotional to me to have a country. It made me feel that I have rights and that I can get involved in things here,” she said, and has taken an interest in issues like domestic violence, the growing chasm between rich and poor, education and health care.
“I was shocked by the poverty and inequalities in the U.S.,” she said, spreading her hands apart to illustrate her point. “There’s no reason for children to be hungry or anyone to live in extreme poverty. No matter how much I love this country, I can never agree with that — not in any country.”
That would include Cuba, a difficult subject for her, with tears coming easily. She said she no longer has immediate family there and has not returned since 1984. Her only sibling now lives in Miami. She said she visited him not long ago and learned that many of her childhood friends also live in Florida, a bittersweet realization, as the memories and sense of connection to their homeland vary dramatically.
“Some people are angry about the lies and manipulation (by the Cuban government). I don’t feel angry, just very sad. Not hate, just sad. The place I remember doesn’t exist,” she said. Regaining her composure, she emphasized that there were very good times in the midst of the country’s political and economic struggles and she holds dear those memories of family and her early life.
Since her marriage to Jim Manahan, a retired attorney whom she met when he was teaching law in Chile in 2008, and her move to the North Shore, Cristina has been creating her niche. She is updating the neglected dome home where the couple now lives, brightening the color palate and imprinting her unique artistic style with paintings, photos and objects she’s collected in her travels. She has also begun to teach Spanish to adult students and says her background as a native speaker of the language allows her students to develop a good foundation in the language.
Of her newly adopted homeland, its assets and challenges, Manahan is optimistic and philosophical.
“I try to maintain a perspective. I understand that every country has good and bad, so I live according to my values.”