Nicaraguan loves being U.S. citizen

Chris Thelen/Staff
Alberto Flores with his daughter Jamilynn, 10, and son Kendrick, 7, at the apartment complex in North Augusta.

Alberto Flores says he's hears it all the time.

"Are you Mexican?"

Earlier this month, he got the question frequently while on one of his jobs at a North Augusta convenience store.

"They kept asking me what were my plans for Cinco de Mayo," Mr. Flores said with a chuckle.

"I have nothing against Mexicans," he said, "but I'm from Nicaragua."

He's also an American citizen - has been since 1987 when he came to this country as a teenager.

"I love it here because of the opportunities," he said. "This is a blessed nation and there is so much more than other countries have."

When Mr. Flores arrived in the United States 20 years ago, he said, he quickly realized why his father had moved the family from Central America.

"It was a volatile time in our country," he said. "That whole Iran-Contra thing was going on and my father felt it was best if he got us out safely."

The family initially settled in Miami, and Mr. Flores attended Miami-Dade Community College where he studied accounting and "brushed up" on his English. He also became an American citizen - a decision that sits well with his family.

"When we went to Guatemala, we saw so many poor people," said his daughter, Jamilynn, 11, a North Augusta Elementary School honor student. "They lived in cardboard boxes and begged for money."

Her mother, Karin, a native Guatemalan, agrees.

"It's awful," she said.

She and Mr. Flores left Miami for New York but moved to North Augusta in 1997. Two years later, a son, Kendrick, was born. He's in the first grade at North Augusta Elementary, and while his sister wants to be a school teacher, he says he wants to be a soldier.

Mr. Flores says he wants to stay here.

"I don't see us ever going back to Miami or New York," he said. "Here, I can get a better handle on our children. I teach them to respect everyone, regardless of age or race."

He's also teaching them the value of hard work. To boost the family economy, Mr. Flores works two jobs.

From 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., he's at the convenience store. He then drives to Aiken to start his 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift as a maintenance man at an Econo Lodge motel.

"It's really for our children," Mr. Flores said. "We want them to have a comfortable life. They will need more education than we have in order to make it in the future society."

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.

ALBERT FLORES

AGE: 37

FAMILY: Wife, Karin; children Jamilynn, 11; Kendrick, 7

OCCUPATION: Store clerk and hotel maintenance man

NATIVE COUNTRY: Nicaragua

QUOTE: "I love it here because of the opportunities. This is a blessed nation and there is so much more than other countries have."