The Spanish director of the DIA becoming a U.S. citizen
By 4 p.m. Friday, Salvador Salort-Pons will be a true-blue American.
The 47-year-old director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, who grew up in Madrid, will take his oath of allegiance in the museum’s Rivera Court at 3 p.m., in a ceremony open to all DIA visitors.
Salort-Pons has a long history with the United States — while he didn’t move here till 2004, his family toured the East Coast when he was about 10. They landed in New York.
“We came in the summer,” Salort-Pons recalled. “I remember all the cars, and the heat they expelled. Another thing that caught my eye was the steam coming out from the manholes, like there was a dragon underneath the streets.”
His parents admired the U.S., Salort-Pons said, seeing in it a younger, more-vigorous nation largely unburdened by the history that weighed down European societies.
“They felt America was a great culture from which we could learn,” he said, adding, “I remember my father saying in America I would learn to have an open mind. He felt Americans were very flexible, and wanted to experience and explore new ways of thinking.”
It was an attitude the father wanted the son to acquire, Salort-Pons said. “He felt it would be a fantastic complement to my European education.”
In Friday’s ceremony, Senior U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn will administer the oath of allegience to Salort-Pons, who succeeded Graham Beal as DIA director in 2015.
In a best of both worlds kind of arrangement, the newly minted American won’t have to give up his European citizenship.
“In Spain, like here,” Salort-Pons said, “you’re allowed to have dual citizenship.” So in the future, he’ll be voting on both sides of the Atlantic.
Salort-Pons’ wife, Alexandra, grew up in Dallas. Both their children are American citizens.
Not surprisingly, the family is delighted with the decision.
“Salvador embraced this country years ago,” said Alexandra, “and we’re thrilled he’s making a permanent commitment to America and joining his American family.”
There wasn’t any particular reason why her husband took this step now, she said, adding, “He’s been thinking about it for a long time.”
The urge for dual citizenship seems to be spreading. Salort-Pons said his son Tucker is looking into Spanish citizenship so he’d still be on a par with his father.
Some might say this is a fraught time to become an American, when many foreigners are apprehensive about the future of this once-welcoming country.
But Salort-Pons sees no reduction in America’s appeal, never mind transitory politics.
“The power of reinvention here is amazing,” he said, citing Detroit’s recent turnaround as a shining example.
“Here you turn a negative into a positive,” Salort-Pons added. “That’s America. Failure is the start of success. That’s American thinking, and I like that.”