Why La Raza has a right to celebrate the Fourth
By Andy Porras
My mother Pepa and I were grocery shopping in the Texas border town of Del Rio, where I was born and raised, preparing for our regular family’s annual Fourth of July picnic, when a Little League teammate of mine, Bubba, bumped into us.
“Howdy!” roared Bubba, a real big kid for his age. “What y’all doin’ here today?”
When I told him we were preparing for a picnic on the Fourth, he broke into laughter and squeezed the air out of my thin frame with his oversized arm.
“No, no, buddy,” he corrected me. “You guys celebrate Cinco de Mayo, The Fourth of July is for Americans only!”
Gasping as I wrenched from his grasp, I tucked Bubba’s civics lesson away in a corner of my memory.
It wasn’t until the advent of the ’60s and their many reawakening epochs that I came up with a suitable rejoinder. Deep in my post-graduate studies, my re-education by then had shaped me into a Chicano who could take pride in possessing two cultures. Vale más quien sabe dos. Two are twice as good as one.
I still utilize the incident when I deliver my addresses on Hidden Hispanic History. It makes an incisive entry into open minds.
After I relate that early episode of my life, I tell my bewildered audience that I wish Bubba were in the room so he could hear my reasons for celebrating my Americanism.
“I’m more American than the flag Betsy Ross never made!” I shout out.
I don’t explain the statement (Google-up Francis Hopkinson) until deep into the lecture.
In the meantime, I hurl Hispanic historical data at them like fireworks at that Porras family picnic my mom and I were plotting when Bubba appeared. I tell my captive audience stories they never read in school.
I share the one about the Spanish intervention during the Revolution and how it saved George Washington’s quest for independence from England.
Simply, I question whether there would ever have been a Fourth to celebrate if it hadn’t been for the Spaniards and friendly natives — la raza cósmica. It’s a national disgrace, I thunder, that few norteamericanos know anything about these actualities. Then, grinning, I suggest it’s time to add a tad of brown to the red, white and blue of the Fourth.
Many of my heroines and heroes are of Mexican and Spanish descent. The late folk historian José Antonio Burciaga called them “indo-hispanics.” They gave their all during this young nation’s fight for freedom. The startling fact remains that historians slighted these early Spanish-speaking patriots.
One only has to research about the brilliant and gallant Gen. Bernardo de Galvez, who formed an army that would make our special forces proud. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Native Americans and Mexicans resembled the elite Army Rangers and Navy Seals as they prepared to repel the Redcoats.
In one big swoop. Galvez and his gallant men captured five British forts along the Mississippi Valley and what is now Mobile Bay. They also seized 11 English ships and relieved them of their cargoes; rerouting the supplies to the General Washington-led forces, who were stranded at Valley Forge without much assistance from the locals.
Because only one-third of the Colonists took-up arms in the independence effort, this led to our early government accepting help from other counties, and it was both Hispanic Worlds, the old and the new, that provided most of it.
General Galvez not only helped supply Washington’s troops with arms, gunpowder, clothing and food. He also raised money, much contributed by philanthropic Cuban and Mexican women. They offered jewelry, heirlooms and gold coins to be melted down and converted into payments for the revolutionary soldiers.
When Galvez’s guerrillas took the most important British stronghold on the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola, the battle was so fierce that even the general was injured.
But it was the Brits who were fatally wounded. The Pensacola loss broke their back; it was there they were preparing to regroup and head north to Yorktown.
Instead Galvez stripped their ships and sent the captured supplies to the colonists. The Yorktown showdown was the final episode of the War of Independence.
The rest, they say, is history — history stripped of its Hispanic heroes.
Bubba was right. The Fourth of July is a holiday for real Americans. Like all the ones who fought for its independence.
And all their descendants.
Porras is a retired journalism teacher who freelances from his home in West Sacramento, CA. Along with his family, he publishes CAlifas, a bilingual monthly. Find this story online at www.latinola.com/story.php?story=7608