On Monday, District Taco founder Osiris Hoil officially became an American citizen.
“Today America has accepted me to be part of this beautiful country,” Hoil tweeted at the time. “Today I became an American!! Thank you USA!!”
The naturalization ceremony was yet another high point of a whirlwind three and a half years for Hoil, a native of Mexico. In that time Hoil went from laid-off construction worker to food cart operator to a partner in an expanding local restaurant chain. (District Taco is planning to open a third location, on Capitol Hill, early next year.)
We asked Hoil about his path to citizenship and business success.
ARLnow: Tell us a bit about your personal history before District Taco.
I am from Yucatán, Mexico, born and raised in small town call Tekax. Due of a lack of opportunities, my family (dad and mom) thought that I could have better opportunities in the USA. So I came here in 1999. My first job was as a dishwasher at a restaurant. I then worked my way up to become a kitchen manager (that took few years).
ARLnow: How did District Taco come to be?
It was founded by Marc [Wallace] and I. He was my neighbor and I used to go to his house to have picnics with my family and his family. He loves my food and we came up with an idea when I lost my job.
In 2008, when I lost my job in the construction industry, I told Marc that I couldn’t find a job in the same industry and he suggested that I open my restaurant. I told him I didn’t have money for a restaurant. So we came with the idea to open the cart.
ARLnow: When did you first apply for citizenship?
I applied in 2004, right after I got married. The process was hard, because it takes a lot of paper work and patience.
ARLnow: What was your reaction upon first learning that your citizenship had gone through?
It was great. When they told me that my papers were good, it was time to study the history of U.S. and civil rights, because they do an oral test in the interview. I didn’t have any problem answering the questions, so I passed the test. One of the questions I was asked was, “Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?” I simply answered: “Thomas Jefferson.”
ARLnow: Was there a citizenship ceremony?
Yes, there were about 30 people that received their citizenship. We went through our rights as Americans and they showed us a video about what America is about. While the video was being shown, I was little bit emotional, because this is a dream that any foreign could have, and I was making it happen.
The final step to become a U.S. citizen is the Oath of Allegiance. We took the Oath of Allegiance and we also took the Pledge of Allegiance.
My wife and kids (Americans) were there with me during the ceremony. They hugged me and congratulated me after I got my certification and I broke on tears. We then went for dinner with some friends, and they asked me what I wanted to eat. I said “Hamburgers!”
ARLnow: What’s next for you and District Taco?
District Taco is one of my dreams. We will keep working hard and we will keep opening and improving stores.
ARLnow: What advice do you have for other immigrants who dream of moving here, living the American dream and earning citizenship, like you?
Never give up, because everything is possible in USA!!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Photos via Twitter.