July 4 stirs emotion for immigrants, young and old


LET’S BE AMERICAN: Many immigrants choose July 4 to take their oaths of citizenship. In the Miami area, several immigrants share their feelings about Independence Day and what it means to them.

By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI — The burning desire for freedom is as strong today as it was 238 years ago, when the American colonies declared its independence from England on July 4.

Don’t think so? Just ask Négar Granados.

After studying law in his native Venezuela, Granados had a tough choice to make. He’d been kidnapped, he said, and his wife and children were being threatened. His only choice was to leave his homeland, he said.

“… We wanted a country where democracy was strong, and that place was the United States,” Granados said.

“That’s why on July 4, I celebrate the freedom of the United States, because it allowed me to be free.”

Instead of practicing law, he said he’s happy to sell cars for a living. It’s the price he’s willing to pay for his freedom and the safety of his family.

He’s not alone.

“(Fourth of July) is very special for an immigrant. It’s the feeling that for the first time in your life, you are joining freedom,” said Osmin Martinez, a journalist from Cuba.

And like the patriots who broke free of the yoke of England’s King George in the 1776 Declaration of Independence, some of today’s immigrants are willing to give all to protect its freedom.

“I am a Venezuelan immigrant, but I have been here for 14 years”, says student Lorenzo Distefano. “I feel this is my country now, and if I need to fight for, I will fight for it,” he said.

“I am very grateful. It has given me everything. It has given me opportunities and is giving me a future. And I will defend it all the time.”

Cuban immigrant Silvia Morales, who is retired, said the United States was “the only country that really opened up to us” following mass migration of Cubans during the 1980 “Freedom Flotilla” from Mariel, Cuba.

“Being in a country that welcomes you, the Fourth of July is a feeling that you are in a free and democratic country,” said Lorenzo Distefano, owner of the Venezuelan restaurant ‘El Arepazo’ located in Doral.

Diario las Américas Director Manuel Aguilera who emigrated from Spain, said the Fourth of July is one of two special days for him and his family.

“They push us to remember about it (Fourth of July), and we have embrace it,” he said. “Along with Thanksgiving those are very special days to us.”

But what is it that keeps the United States the shining beacon of freedom?

“The important thing is, they show there are immanent rights ― first the life, second the liberty,” said Jorge Salazar Carrillo, a professor at Florida International University in Miami.

It shouldn’t be surprising, really, that Florida’s immigrant population embraces U.S. patriotism. The real estate blog Movoto says Florida is among the most patriot state in the union. The state ranks No. 6 in its survey, which measured national historic landmarks per capita, the number of veterans per capita, money spend to fund veterans per capita, and the percentage of residents who voted in the most recent presidential election, among others.

Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org or on Twitter @mtoledoreporter.