Meet Enoc Castro, the man who owns the white panel van parked behind the Plaza shops that declares "USA Citizen Finally Me Deaf" in red spray paint.
Castro, who was born with a hearing impairment and is unable to speak, left his homeland of Honduras 22 years ago. On Friday, Aug. 5, after a year of studying, Castro realized one of his life's goals when he became a United States citizen.
Anthony Pepe, who owns where Castro has worked for the past 13 years, said, “Two Fridays ago, he came back to work and he was so happy and so proud. He told my son Michael that he was going to do something to the van.”
The craftsman, who specializes in all types of shoe and handbag repair, decided to decorate his van as a way to celebrate and share his news with the world.
Castro said, through an interpreter, that he came up with the idea because he wanted people to cheer for him.
"They'd like be, 'Hey, look! He did it. A deaf person can become a citizen,'" Castro said.
He said family members in both Texas and Honduras are "shocked" by what he has accomplished.
"They were pretty amazed that a deaf person has the initiative to become a U.S. citizen and the ability to pay for an attorney," Castro said. "But that's the kind of personality I have. I don't sit back and let things happen. I make them happen."
While becoming a citizen was something Castro had always wanted to pursue, he began studying in earnest as his green card was approaching renewal.
Especially after Sept. 11, 2001 Castro expressed concerns about not being allowed back into the country after going to his native country to visit his mother. The 45-year old also worried that as he got older, he wouldn’t be eligible for social security benefits despite paying taxes during the many years he has worked.
Castro is also proud of the work he has accomplished at the shoe shop.
Both Pepe and co-worker Ralph Tolomiera agreed that Castro is a hard-worker and a skilled artisan.
Because Castro had previous industry experience, Pepe said he was open to "giving him a shot” but he did have concerns about communication.
“He knows the work and it’s very visual, so that helps” said Pepe.
The owner, Tolomiero and Castro agreed that over the past 13 years, they have been able to develop their own style of communication.
“We’ve developed our own little language based on our trade,” said Tolomeira. “He’s also taught us some sign language.”
“He’s as fast and as good as any other employee I’ve ever had,” Pepe said. "He works real hard and he’s real proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. He’s been great.”
Castro said he hopes his story can inspire others who face obstacles along the path to citizenship.