A hand holds up a lit sparkler firework and a small U.S. Flag against a dark background
Stephanie McCabe via unsplash

Sparlers and U.S. Flags on Independence Day

We’ve often discussed the bicultural experience of living in the United States: it’s easy to feel as if you don’t belong in either place which sometimes makes claiming your heritage almost feel like a test a lot of the time.

Some of us struggle with Latinx identity for many reasons including not having a mastery of our native tongue, while others find it hard to claim being American at times. Whether this is due to the huge difference between Latinx and American culture or simply the feeling of being “ni de aquí, ni de allá” (neither from here, nor from there), one thing’s for sure: it’s understandable to not know how to navigate holidays such as the 4th of July.

Growing up, my parents didn’t do much for the 4th. Sure, we barbecued and enjoyed fireworks, but that’s mostly because everyone else was doing it (and Puerto Ricans love any excuse to party). I’d say I didn’t really understand the significance of the 4th of July as a day of celebration for Americans commemorating the independence of the new colonists from British rule until I was older, with many years passing as it simply being another day off for my family and I to spend together.

Learning about the 4th of July didn’t really matter to me though. Despite being raised primarily in the United States, my Latinx identity always came first.

The feeling of otherness on these national holidays seems to be when I become extra Latina. Where before I was existing in this society as someone feeling pressured to assimilate into American culture, I’m learning to forge my own path, especially on these big holidays.

Instead of embracing 4th of July festivities, I choose to spend the holiday in more thoughtful ways: I read a book about Puerto Rican history in relation to the U.S. (last year’s read being the light one of War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America's Colony by Nelson A. Denis), I spend the day with my family eating my culture’s food, and I make a point of reclaiming the day in relation to my own culture instead of the United States.’

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For those of us struggling with this sense of otherness, I implore you to do the same. Focus less on the feeling of needing to belong, and instead embrace making the most out of these days in ways that are more meaningful to you.

Create your own traditions, tie the day back to your own country or culture’s relationship with the U.S., and put in the work to redefine what it means to be “American” in a time where even those who have been here for generations are shying away from being proud. There’s plenty of criticism this year on the holiday itself being canceled due to recent events.

While the national mood may not be very festive, and understandably so - celebrating your own identity comes far ahead of anything else for the 4th. In fact, it’s a great tribute to the very same independence the day celebrates.

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