LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Alex Suarez, an 18-year old Cuban immigrant, was given the chance to show off his singing chops Friday during a naturalization ceremony in Louisville.
62 immigrants and refugees became U.S. citizens, representing 34 different countries, but it was a moment at the beginning of the ceremony that was turning heads.
"I wasn't too nervous," Suarez said after performing 'the Star Spangled Banner' in front of the crowd.
A little more than three months ago, Suarez and his mother made the long trek from Cuba to the United States with dreams of a better life.
He said it getting here was tough having to travel through several countries to get here. Suarez says while he loves his home country of Cuba, he knew staying there was a problem.
"It's a communist government and you have problems all the time," the young man said. "So many people, families don't have food, don't have clothes."
Not yet U.S. citizens, both Suarez and his mother hope to one day achieve that feat, joining what's been a growing Cuban-immigrant population here in Louisville.
In the last year alone, more than 3,000 Cubans settled down in the city, and the city's foreign-born population increased 40% over the last decade.
Mayor Greg Fischer says the Cuban-American population in the city brings so much to the community including cultural vibrancy, entrepreneurship, education and good food. "You name it, you guys got it going on," he said.
"All these new refugees," Berta Weyenberg, president of the Cuban American Association of Kentucky, said. "Bring the influx, the love, the passion for the city."
As for Suarez, his goal right now is to pursue music professionally and he feels Louisville is the perfect place to start. He will be attending the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS) at duPont Manual HS this fall.