What Does Independence Day Mean for Hispanics and Latinos?

For some Hispanics and first generation Americans, Independence Day can seem abstract. After all, we are talking about a moment in American history that took place more than two centuries ago — well before many of the newest generations of Hispanics had even stepped foot on American soil. Opening up the history books reveals portraits and names of people that don’t look like us, or share any of our Spanish surnames.

And while all of that may be true, it is worth pointing out men like General Bernardo de Galvez, the governor of Louisiana during the American Revolution. He was born in Spain and played a critical role in helping Gen. George Washington slow down British advances in the southern part of the American colonies.

Then there is Capitan Jorge Farragut, a native of the Spanish island of Minorca, who courageously and enthusiastically joined American colonists’ fight for independence from the British Crown. It was an incredibly risky move considering that at the time, the British possessed the fiercest army in the modern world.

But even if you wouldn’t consider Farragut and Galvez Hispanic by our modern definition, many strong bonds connect us with American Independence.

For one, most of the American colonists who joined the cause were not wealthy, well connected, or hailing from a distinguished pedigree. They either were immigrants themselves, or the sons and daughters of immigrants who arrived to the American colonies precisely because they were looking for increased opportunity. Like today’s Hispanics and Latinos who come here looking for jobs and a better way of life, American colonists also were men and women spending their days and nights working hard to put food on the table and provide for their children in a new land.

Besides seeking economic opportunities, American colonists also were deeply religious. For them, religion was not simply a part of who they were — their Christian faith formed the very basis of their character. This is not unlike today’s Hispanics and Latinos who deeply cherish their faith and continue to tell pollsters that church and God are important for them in their lives, even as our country continues drifting evermore secular.

In sum, American colonists were hungry and desperate people who wanted to work and worship their God. They gave up a lot to come to this country. They must have felt lonely and scared in a new land full of promise, but also much uncertainty.

On this Independence Day, let us all take a moment to not only celebrate our independence and the freedoms that we all cherish, but also to remember all of the men, women and families who contributed greatly so we could celebrate this holiday. For our opportunity to live in the land of the free, we owe much to their sacrifices and bravery.

Happy Independence Day!

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