HEBERTO LIMAS-VILLERS, THE HAMILTONIAN REPUBLICAN
The Fourth of July is, for many, a civic holiday celebrated by a heating-up of the grill, a hot dog feast with family, and for the lucky middle class inhabiting prime real estate, a quintessentially American fireworks display. For politicians, this is the time of the year to post thanks for veterans, and to look important in their town’s annual parade. But the Fourth of July, to me, is more than just a holiday- it is the start of a new chapter of my life.
I was barely ten years old when I left Mexico to move permanently to the United States. I was excited to live in America, a country which was less of a geographical location to me and more of an dream. Though I grew up in the United States, after my parents divorced, I was forced to move to Mexico. I got sick frequently in my first year, and bullying, loneliness, and depression haunted me for a long time. This being my reality, I saw the US as a beacon of hope where I could someday live the American Dream. Unfortunately, despite occasional visits to see my father, that dream remained out of reach for three years.
In March 2005, my dad told me I would be headed back to the United States. But instead of living in New York, where I spent my early years, we would be living in Colorado. While I was a bit disappointed I wouldn’t be back in the Big Apple, I was still happy that I was going to be back in America.
Our flight back to the US happened to be on the Fourth of July, with a layover in Mexico City before the final leg to Denver. Our second segment was meant to go straight to Denver, but due to inclement weather, we had to land in Houston, where we waited for what felt like an eternity. I remember being impatient for hours, only to feel relieved when we were back up in the air.
It was very late when we arrived at customs, but I’ll never forget when the customs agent greeted us: “Welcome to the United States.” I cried myself to sleep in my new home that night, but unlike so many other nights, I was crying for joy, happy that I was home.
The Fourth of July isn’t just a holiday to honor the Founding Fathers for their sacrifices and legacies- it is also, to me, a memory of my exodus from a foreign country. To me, America is the promised land, from its colonial-style hamlets in Martha’s Vineyard to the towering Redwoods of California to everything in between. It is nowhere near perfect, and sometimes it can feel unwelcoming- but it is home. It is a home where my father, raised in poverty in Mexico, was able to make a comfortable living as an entrepreneur, and partake in the American Dream. It is a beacon of light for those foreign refugees lucky enough to be allowed to live here.
America is an idea that has brought the best of humanity together, whether they came as celebrities or impoverished immigrants, with the promise of a better life than the one they left. If the Old World is the past, then America is the future, and like many, I hope to play a strong role in building that future.