Crossing the Country In Celebration of Citizenship
Constantino Diaz-Duran is walking from New York to Los Angeles after learning he will be granted U.S. citizenship.
When he told his friends of his plan to walk across America, self-proclaimed "city slicker" Constantino Diaz-Duran drew laughter.
“They were like, ‘You?,’” he recalled.
To celebrate his impending citizenship, the native of Guatemala left his home in New York City on July 4. The goal of his eight-month trek is to reach Los Angeles.
After 10 years of living and working in the United States on a green card, Diaz-Duran—a fellow for the Center of Social Cohesion at Arizona State University—learned he would be granted citizenship.
He strolled into Havre de Grace Wednesday, where he met Captain Steve Weisbrod of The Lantern Queen riverboat. With his camera in hand, Diaz-Duran—who is writing a book while on his cross-country adventure—took some time out of his trip to cruise the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Wearing an earth-tone T-shirt, it's easy to tell Diaz-Duran is physically up for the challenge.
"I’ve always liked being in shape," he said. "I’m into fitness, but I’m mostly the gym type."
The trek is not meant to only celebrate his impending citizenship, but also to collect material for his book.
"I’m a journalist as well," he explains, with his camera in hand. "I’m working on a book on what it means to be an American."
Diaz-Duran planned a route that would take advantage of flatter terrains to save time. And with the heat wave that hit the Mid-Atalntic region last week, he's trying to make up for lost time spent in Philadelphia as the temperatures became too hot to continue at his regular pace.
"I’ve been doing an average of 10-to-12 [miles a day]. I’m trying to work up to 20. Hopefully by the time I’m here,” he said with his index finger hitting Oklahoma on a map, “I’ll be able to do 30.”
Diaz-Duran's initial route (see the photo of the reverse side of his business card for his intended path) would have taken him from the Washington, D.C. area to Kentucky and then to New Orleans. He still intends to visit New Orleans but he'll travel through the foot-friendly Carolinas rather than make his way through the Appalachian mountains.
From New Orleans, he'll try to take advantage of the plains on his way to the Rocky Mountains, and eventually on to Los Angeles.
All told, it's an eight-month trek. By the end, Diaz-Duran will be completing his paperwork for American citizenship.
From Havre de Grace, he headed out Wednesday afternoon to Parkville, then to Annapolis, before moving on to Washington.
Diaz-Duran carries a backpack with all of his supplies.
"The backpack weighs 51 pounds with no water," he said. "Once I fill it with water bottles, it goes to 60."
Included in that backpack is a tent, which, so far, he has not had to use.
“I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to find places to stay," he said, crediting churches and kind people he has met along the way.
His stop in Havre de Grace Wednesday was longer than he intended, thanks to Weisbrod, a colorful individual who coaxed Diaz-Duran and his camera onto The Lantern Queen.
For Diaz-Duran, cruising on water for a while was a welcome reprieve from pounding the pavement.
"The main point of what I’m doing is to meet people," he said. "I could be walking down [Route] 40 right now not talking to anyone, or I could be talking to some really great people."
After all, sometimes the rate at which Diaz-Duran travels might take him away from the overall point of his trek.
"The purpose of the trip is two-fold. One, it’s a celebration. Two, I wanted to see more of the country and meet people from all over, and hear what being American means to them," he said. "Hopefully I can use their stories for the backbone of my book.”