Nothing says July Fourth in South Florida like a Nicaraguan family gathering over carne asada and gallo pinto, a Pakistani family munching on chicken biryani while watching fireworks, and Chinese Americans enjoying a traditional sweet soup dessert at a park.
“We have people from all over the world living in Miami,” said Carlos Borges, who emigrated from Brazil more than 20 years ago. “People come and bring their food, their colors, their culture.”
People from every corner of the world have made South Florida their home, and when it comes time for the all-American holiday, it has a deep significance to them. Many celebrate the traditional way but add a hint of their native culture, usually in their meals.
“This nation was created to open the doors for whoever wants to be part of it,” said 36-year-old Edda Jiron, who emigrated from Nicaragua when she was a child. “The word ‘independence’ means a lot to me. I feel that this country gives me power,” said Jiron, referring to her right to vote and ability to give back to the community.
With the approach of this July Fourth, The Miami Herald’s Neighbors section talked to U.S. immigrants about what significance the day has for them and how they celebrate.
First-generation Chinese American Winnie Tang uses a metaphor to describe how American she feels: She is a tree planted in China that now is deeply rooted in the United States.
“We are living in the U.S., and this is our country,” said Tang, 50. “We need to be part of this country and not the outsider.”
That is why every July Fourth she gathers with other Chinese Americans, part of the South Florida chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, at Topeekeegee Yugnee Park in Hollywood to celebrate Independence Day over hot plates of barbecue chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers, followed by a cooling Chinese dessert of sweet green-bean soup or almond tofu.
“This is the day we show our appreciation that we are part of this country,” Tang said. “Let’s demonstrate our love and respect.”
Tang came to the United States from Macau in 1978 with her family. In 1987, she moved to South Florida, where she now works as an office manager at a homecare business and is involved with community organizations, including the Asian American Federation of Florida and the United Chinese Association of Florida.
Fluent in both English and Cantonese, Tang sees herself as a bridge between the Chinese community in America and American society. Much of her community service is helping other Chinese Americans make the transition to American life: finding schools, getting a job permit, assimilating with the community.
“We try to bring people into the thought that this is our country. We are not just a traveler here,” she said.
Every July Fourth, Tang hangs a U.S. flag outside her Kendall home.
She said that many immigrants who come to the U.S. at later stages in their lives hold on to a thought that they will one day return to their native country.
That is not the case with Tang, who immigrated when she was a teenager.
“We need to participate in what is near you and not what is far away from you,” she said. “Water for fire coming from afar will not help.”