Editorial, Featured

We Should Celebrate Cuatro de Julio

June 30, 2016

September 16 is Mexican Independence Day, and Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of a Mexican victory over the French Army, but Latinos should celebrate the Fourth of July in the United States too, along with the millions of others that call America home.

If we are here, it is because we, or our parents or grandparents, wanted to enjoy the greater opportunities this country has to offer. For 240 years, America has inspired millions of Latinos from many countries in Latin America to make the often dangerous journey to get here. For most of us, life is much better than what we could have expected in our homelands.

But, in these times of political unrest and economic stress, it may be easy to forget to celebrate our common bond as Americans, or immigrants, in America. And especially given the hateful and racist political rhetoric lately, it may seem at times like this country does not even want us here anymore.

As we all know, the areas of California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas were once part of Mexico. Mexicans were here before these areas became American states, and many of our ancestors pre-date Americans here.

Most of the areas were ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican-American War of 1846, and the border shifted South to what we now know as the Mexican border.

Some Latinos still hold that against the United States, and Americans in general. The AZTLAN Chicano movement in the 1960s and 1970s sought to reclaim these lands into a new country, the Republica del Norte. The MeChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán) student movement also uses the term in its name and has been criticized for advocating the recovery of these lands.

But time has marched on and those issues have long been settled. The states are part of the United State of America, and it is here we find ourselves, in an adopted land to many, or in our native land for many millions more.

For generations, immigrants tried to assimilate into American society, often losing their native languages and cultures along the way. From Irish to Germans to Italians, many immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries sought to limit discrimination and alienation by living in small communities and staying within their ethnic groups for protection, but it also limited their economic prospects in growing cities and the evolving melting pot of America.

Latinos have had a similar track but, due to the proximity of Mexico and other Latin-American countries, most of us have retained a greater connection with our ancestral languages and cultures. Today, Latinos are the largest minority group in most cities across the country, especially in California.

In 2014, Latinos became the largest majority in California, outnumbering whites in the state for the first time since it became a state in 1850. Across the country, Latinos total more than 55.4 million, as our population grew by 57 percent since the year 2000.  Demographers estimate that the United States will be a majority minority, thanks in large part to Latinos, within 20 years.

So Latinos have a huge stake in America, and America’s future. We have become an inextricable part of American society. Our economic impact is measured in trillions. And our political integration in a historically white political system has reached the highest levels in government, except the White House (for now!).

It’s only right, then, that Latinos celebrate the birthday of this country in as big a way, and with the same heartfelt conviction, as any other Americans.

Monday is our birthday, too, in a sense, because the story of Latinos IN America is also the story OF America. And we have every reason to continue making this country better for ourselves and our
children’s children.

Feliz Cumpleaños, America, from your Latino Brothers and Sisters.

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