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Mexican restaurant manager achieves US citizenship dream

February 24, 2019

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — If you go to 3 Amigos in Barboursville, you most likely know manager Julio Guzman.

“I try to make friends with everyone that comes here,” Guzman said. “This place is like my home. I want everyone to feel welcome, happy and have a good time.”

Guzman has been the manager of 3 Amigos for over a decade, but he does nearly every job in the place. He has cooked, waited tables, ran food, answered the phone, swept the floors and makes one of the best margaritas around.

“I love my job and I love my bosses,” he said. “I love the people of West Virginia. They are so nice and very friendly.”

On Guzman’s 52nd birthday on Jan. 28, he officially became a U.S. Citizen after living in America for the past 27 years.

“I am so excited and proud to be a U.S. Citizen,” he said. “I waited a long time, but I wanted to do it the right way and was a little nervous about taking the test.”

Guzman has always been in the country as a legal immigrant as a green card holder.

“I kept renewing my green card, but I was not allowed to vote,” he said. “I love this country and lived here so long, so I decided to take the test.”

Guzman passed, despite being very nervous about it.

“I missed a few questions, but I finally passed and couldn’t wait to get my papers,” he said.

When his citizenship papers arrived he had to go to Charleston for the swearing in ceremony.

“It was on my birthday, and I was very nervous again,” Guzman said. “My wife, Janice, told me to drink a cup of coffee and relax.”

Guzman put on a suit and tie to take the Oath of Allegiance at the naturalization ceremony.

“I am proud to be an American citizen,” he said. “I have always worked hard, obey the rules and not get into any trouble. That’s what my father taught me, to work hard and be a good person.”

Guzman’s father, Ireneo, raised him in Guerrero, south of Mexico City.

“I worked on a farm as a boy raising corn and beans and things like that,” he recalled. “I liked it, but it was hard work.

When he became an adult, Guzman joined the Mexican army.

“I worked for the army for nine years,” he said. “That’s when I got a visa and passport so I could come to the United States for vacation. I visited California.”

After that he decided he wanted to live in the United States and became a green card holder. He lived in California for a year.

His first job in West Virginia was at a Chinese restaurant.

“I had a friend that knew of a job at a Chinese restaurant in Charleston, West Virginia, so I took the job,” he said. “I stayed there two years.”

Guzman said he bounced around jobs at Mexican restaurants in Nitro, Beckley and Morgantown before meeting his wife while working at the Rio Grande on 4th Avenue in Huntington.

He said when his daughter was 2 years old, he took her and his wife to visit his family in Mexico.

“I hadn’t seen my family in seven years,” he said. “I had to drive for 4 days and 3 nights to get there from Teays Valley to Mexico City and we visited for three weeks. It was worth it so I could see my father and he could see my family.”

Today, his daughter Alexandra is 22 years old and is expecting a baby boy in April.

Guzman ended up in Barboursville after he had a friend that opened Porfirio’s, the restaurant where 3 Amigos is currently located.

“I worked 8 years for Porfirio’s,” he said. “Then he closed the business and I have been working for my new bosses for 11 years now.”

The owners of 3 Amigos in Barboursville are Jimmy and Rita Chapman.

“I have known Julio for about 21 years now,” Jimmy Chapman said. “We were one of the first customers of the previous owner and that is how I got involved with the business here. So when we began 3 Amigos, Julio was ‘Mr. Amigo,’ because we couldn’t have done this without him.”

Chapman said in addition to being the great manager and a good friend, Guzman is a wonderful person.

“He is the face of 3 Amigos and we couldn’t exist without him,” Chapman said.

Guzman says now that he is a U.S. citizen, he hopes to help others on their journey to citizenship through legal immigration.

“All you have to do is work hard, obey the rules, don’t get in trouble and study for the test,” he said. “If I can do it, then anybody can do it.”

NAME: Julio Guzman

AGE: 52

EDUCATION: High school

FAMILY: Wife, Janice, and daughter, Alexandra

FIRST JOB: Bus boy at Chinese Restaurant

CURRENT JOB: Manager of 3 Amigos in Barboursville

HOMETOWN: Frazier’s Bottom, West Virginia

HOBBIES: Spending time with family and friends

FAVORITE MOVIE: Saturday Night Fever

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Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com