By Lupita Peimbert
(Holidays) — As we celebrate the Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, July 4, 1776, we acknowledge our life and the culture we have co-created. It is the 4th of July, Independence Day, 240 years later.
How each person lives his or her life, and the things we collectively do, make our “Life in the United States.” It is our home –not only for those born and raised here, but also for those of us who have been naturalized American citizens, (meaning that you took the oath), live or work –temporarily or forever, in this country.
The United States of America is a mosaic and a blend of languages, ethnicities, multicultural traditions, and a moving-forward set of attitudes towards life, especially in states like California.
In the context of barbeques, American flags, and fireworks I remember that I love my life in the United States, despite challenges and aside from victories.
Like millions of new Americans, I wasn’t born in this country, but I have lived in California for 25+ years, and I call it home. I was blessed with having a passport and a visa when I entered, but I was not –and I am not, by all means, better than any other immigrant who comes to the United States or is brought by their family, seeking a better life, whether having a passport or a visa, or undocumented. In full consent, I decided to stay. And I have paid my dues. But I was my decision –nobody else’s.
I was a young woman, an irreverent 22 year-old who felt that my country of origin and society couldn’t provide what I was seeking: greater freedom of expression, the socio-economic structures to support someone seeking a brighter future despite whatever personal or class challenges one was part of, and the liberties that come with living in more liberal societies. Mexico, in my opinion, was classist, and I deeply disliked and disagreed.
When I was 14 years old, and after watching a movie about hippie, intellectual, and rebellious Berkeley, California, I thought that was the promised land. Idealism kicked in deeply, and I believed that the United States –with its 50 stars and 13 stripes, its superb highways and seducing subcultures, was the land of opportunities –and that it was all like Berkeley.
A young woman full of dreams, I came to California from Mexico as part of a group. One night in July when we were boarding our group’s bus to return to the other side of the border, I saw myself unwilling to step in, and with one suitcase on the side I saw them depart. I had decided to stay and start a new life here.
Like millions of immigrants from Latin America and other continents who move to a new country, I started from zero and it wasn’t easy. Immigrating is very different than relocating with a job in hand or to further your studies, as an expat, and not even as refugee.
Immigrants are on their own, at the mercy of serendipity and with the forces awaken by hard work, determination, consistency and persistency.
Some immigrants make it; meaning, they are able to build a stable life. Stability still means a lot to most people and it is their grounding force and a source of happiness. Other immigrants make it big, at least financially. Of course there are the ones who make it big by contributing to improving the lives of others, or who are able to self-realize in their pursuits.
Other immigrants who equally work hard to achieve their goals, for reasons or logic still a mystery to my wandering mind, never make it, or at least it doesn’t seem that they have advanced financially, in their education, career-wise (the reasons many seek when coming to the States.) You may also see a lack of acculturation to this country, and a life surrounded by scarcity and oppression –yes, in the land of freedom. And they have been working as hard and with such determination as other immigrants who “succeed.”
Granted, success is a matter of what one sees as success. What it means for some, may not be what it means for others.
Here is one thing we often forget: living at this time and location, under the information era and the Internet of Things, life is always changing: you may be up and shining for a few years, down the next round, struggling –and thought it would last forever, but then something changes and boom! There you are up in the mountain and in the highs of things. Up and down, extensive, intensive, ever changing times we are part of.
Despite contradicting standards in integrity, racial biases, contrasting socioeconomic realities, and the rise of groups certain groups filled with obsolete, retrograde points of views, the United States of America remains a society that allows for opportunity, growth, and freedom of expression. It would be naive to say that corruption is non-existent, but there are systems in place one can use to defend and protect one’s rights. Those of us who have lived long enough in other countries have a point of comparison.
25+ years living in California, I still believe this is the land of opportunities. I feel blessed and honored to be part of the golden state, a place in constant movement, innovation, allowing different ideologies, liberties, and subcultures to surge, grow, die, and be born again. The combination of Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, African Americans, Caucasians, Gays and other LGBTQs, the technology icons and their teams, the millions of entrepreneurs, the community leaders, the idealists, the adventurers, the true leaders, and many more, are co-creating life every day: changing it, refining it, modifying it, making mistakes, learning from it, hoping for a better present and and an even better future. I love California!
With the same fervor I had as a young woman starting over 25+ years ago, I believe in this nation I am part of; I still try to be respectful of the North American culture, its history and traditions.
I love this country, I am glad I live here, and I am honored to be an American Citizen, and who cares if I am classified as “New American,” or whatever else. Happy 4th of July!