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Maria Lopez-Knowles Headshot

July 4th or December 4th?

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Flickr: KayOne73
Flickr: KayOne73

When I was asked to write a blog for an early July post, it made perfect sense to tie this article to
our nation's Independence Day, but I hesitated. For me, my siblings and parents, December 4th is
equally as significant as July 4th. That's when we celebrate freedom.

We don't have fireworks, hot dogs or apple pie. We don't tend to congregate at the same locale,
both because we are geographically dispersed throughout the United States, and it's not a national
holiday (which complicates things). We celebrate it quietly. We reflect, in awe, at what my parents
went through as political exiles entering a country they had honeymooned in, but were not intimate
with, and one which they never dreamed of ever inhabiting permanently.

On the 4th of December, 1961, my parents left everything behind (as the saying goes), except for
three children, the clothes on their backs, $15 US, their education, and hope.

This doesn't mean I take the 4th of July lightly. On the contrary, I am probably as much, if not more
impacted by it than many of my friends - including my spouse. Why? The novelty of the holiday is
still with us; the struggles that allow us to celebrate it have greater immediacy. In our case, my family
has celebrated the Fourth for 50 years, not hundreds. It's not a holiday, it's a holy day.

On the other hand, my husband's family has lived in the United States for twelve generations, can
trace their roots to the founders of Rhode Island, and came on the ship that arrived behind the
Mayflower - the Fortune, in 1621. His family roots run deep into this nation's soil. The holiday is
meaningful, yet it also carries a sense of permanence. His family is firmly planted and assimilated to
our American land. We, however, are planted closer to the surface, more exposed and susceptible
to the elements, and not totally incorporated into our relatively new earth.

That said, we don't have to dust off diaries or Google our relatives' names to learn about our
ancestors' experiences as immigrants. We just ask our parents (rarely, I may add, because it's not a
topic they like to relive - like a scar that's barely visible, they remember clearly how it happened, and
sadly, how it felt).

This is just one of the many things that being a second-generation immigrant means. We're closer
to momentous events in our family's history, nearer to painful memories, near to (or living) bifurcated
childhoods (where one language and culture is practiced inside the home, and a different one
outside). And, ultimately, closer to both prejudice and hope.

Coming to peace with this duality is what ultimately gives us true independence, and living in a
country that lets us commemorate it as well, that's a cause for celebration.

Understanding these life events, their impact on the second-generation's lives, and the duality lived
by many immigrant children should be top of mind for all brands interested in tapping this fast-
growing segment.