Friday, June 29, 2007

Sunday, July 1, 2007 - 12:00 AM

Jose Temprana, 105, recites the pledge of allegiance while being sworn in as a U.S. citizen Friday in Miami.

Cuban becomes American after more than a century
By The Associated Press

MIAMI — A 105-year-old Cuban-born man who had at least one pending wish had it fulfilled: He became a U.S. citizen.

Jose Temprana celebrated by sipping champagne with friends at the Hispanic Community Center in Miami on Friday.

"I feel different," said Temprana, who served 30 years in Cuban jails. "Satisfied, very happy. It was worth the wait."

Temprana has the vitality of a younger man. Nicknamed "El NiƱo" (The Boy), he rides his scooter to the store to play the lottery, rolls his own cigars, drinks whiskey with neighbors and has a girlfriend.

"He's just got a great spirit," said his neighbor Patti Hernandez. "Everybody's going, 'Come on, he can't really be that old.' "

Temprana was born in the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio on Sept. 26, 1901. He worked as a sponge diver and lobster fisherman and had eight children with his first wife, who died giving birth. He remarried, and his second wife died in 2002.

In 1964, he was imprisoned in Cuba for smuggling weapons from the United States to the island for an insurrection against Fidel Castro.

Temprana was released from prison at age 93, applied for a humanitarian visa and flew to Miami.

Once in Miami, he worked to get his citizenship but fell short twice.

"I've wanted ... it since I was 8 or 10 years old," Temprana said.

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