Proud to Be An Americano
By CARLO SOSA-ORTIZ
As I ruminate over our country’s new year of independence, I cannot help but think about previous Independence Day celebrations when our country saw brighter days – a country not in the midst of riots or global health pandemics, days when July 4ths were spent watching Will Smith save the world from aliens and grilling hotdogs with family.
I remember my childhood of growing up in South Texas where on these American holidays it was common to roast our country’s favorite staple food and unwrap tamales, to proudly sing America the Beautiful and give a hearty grito like Vicente Fernandez.
As the grandchild of proud Mexican immigrants, Independence Day sometimes felt strange to celebrate. On television, I remember seeing white, middle class families out on the lake, wearing those grungy Old Navy T-shirts that kids somehow always had, and ending the night with exploding firecrackers that culminated our country’s most revered day.
But in these depictions, I did not see my grandparents, the stacked corn husks of already eaten tamales, or the songs of the mariachi.
I must admit for years I never felt patriotic. Growing up I believed that a proud American patriot resembled more those commercials on television than immigrants who crossed into this country illegally. And while many citizens still proudly boast of their immigrant heritage, that pride stopped short of my family and many others with stories like mine.
It is hard to love a country where you do not feel welcomed. While I have met many people who love to hear my Spanish accent or eat my deliciously tasting rice or pronounce Tex-Mex foods the right way, I am still bombarded with intrusive comments from people who do not appreciate the fact that my family’s immigration story began with an illegal border crossing. I even remember angrily leaving an interview at a small-town church after a deacon questioned why my grandmother never sought her citizenship and “died as an illegal.”
It is hard to take pride in this America – an America where certain races are seen as less than, where black men and women desperately gasp for air and solidarity.
For many minority citizens, we are forced to chose between our birth country and the countries that we never knew. We buy into a false dichotomy and forget the principles in which this country was founded upon that all men, women, and children have an opportunity for freedom.
The day before Independence Day, my wife and I watched the newly released Hamilton. I was amazed to see our forefathers portrayed by people who did not fit that “idyllic” mold but by men and women who looked more like my family.
The play showed me that our country was a nation founded by immigrants and for immigrants, each person adding to America’s “great unfinished symphony.” It reminded me that I do not have to choose between Mexico or America, but that perhaps, my voice can be added to the great cacophony of sounds that make America great.
While we celebrate all that our country has accomplished on July 4th, may we reflect on the work still yet to be done. I believe Hamilton concludes my thoughts best:
“America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me
You let me make a difference, a place where even orphan immigrants
Can leave their fingerprints and rise up.”
Carlo Sosa-Ortiz is a seminary student at Logsdon Seminary and is currently working on his M.Div. He works as a graduate assistant at the seminary and as an intern at First Central Presbyterian Church.