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Immigrants explain why they personally celebrate the Fourth of July each year.

This is what patriotism is all about.

4th of July, immigrants, celebration, assimilation, American pride
Photo collage created from Pixabay

Some different perspectives on the American experience.

Some 300 million people live in the United States. And over 40 million of them are immigrants.

Now, some people might have you believe that too many immigrants might cause us to lose our identity as Americans or that we ought to be fighting and clinging to "the way things were."

But if you look around, you'll see that more than 1 in 10 Americans were born somewhere else — meaning they have their own unique set of amazing experiences to share and their own amazing stories about why they're here.


They each have their own ideas about what being an American means to them, too. And they each have their own reasons for celebrating American independence on the Fourth of July.

So if you want to feel proud, excited, and maybe even a teensy bit emotional about being an American, this one's for you.

Meet five immigrants from all over the country (and all over the world!) who are showing their American pride in many, many shades of red, white, and blue this year.

Mexican American experience, traditional, celebration

Traditional food the celebrate the Fourth of July.

Photo by Chad Montano on Unsplash

1. Nayeli Ruvalcaba's Fourth of July is full of traditional Mexican food and mariachi music.

Ruvalcaba, who was born in Mexico but moved to Chicago when she was 4, spent her early childhood in a mostly caucasian neighborhood called Lakeview. There, she says the Fourth of July was pretty much what you'd expect.

"Everyone would be making ribs and burgers and mac and cheese. And my dad would be drinking Budweisers and Coors Light," she said with a laugh.

Nayeli with her parents.

But when she was 16, she moved to a more diverse area of the city filled with families from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Poland.

There, she says, their holidays are much more vibrant. Neighbors gather in the alleys and share their customs and cultures with one another. They sing along with music (her boyfriend, who is in a mariachi band, often gets the party going). They play games. And then there's the food: Nayeli says she loves to chow down on delicious Fourth of July dishes like arrachera (a Mexican skirt steak), polish sausage, guacamole, and, of course, burgers.

"I know it's an American holiday," she says. "Buteveryone has their own culture. You just mix it in with what everyoneelse does."

Nayeli and her boyfriend in full mariachi get-up!

watermelon, English tea, mishmash of culture

Celebrating with a U.K. twist on the Fourth of July.

Photo by Caju Gomes on Unsplash

2. Johanna Dodd and her family celebrate their Fourth of July the "old fashioned way" but with a small U.K.-based twist.

A one-year work contract for her husband brought the Dodds to Connecticut from the U.K. years ago. 12 years later, they're still here.

The Dodds!

On their Fourth of July, she says, "We tend to do what everyone else in town does. We'll head to the fireworks display with our cooler packed full of food, and, occasionally, we'll sneak in some alcohol."

Sounds pretty American to me!

Johanna's young daughter watches the fireworks.

"The kids run around, there's lots of glow sticks, lots of football (both kinds) being played, lots of fun stuff happening. As it gets darker, there's the national anthem, and then out come the fireworks."

But there is one slightly British twist to the Dodds' holiday: "We don't really do the tailgating thing. We bring what we would call 'an English tea.' There's watermelon, yogurts, cheese sandwiches. Kind of a mishmash of both cultures."

grilling, fish, Liberia, American experience

Bringing home country traditions to the American experience.

Photo by Clint Bustrillos on Unsplash

3. Martin Matthews says he never misses a Fourth of July parade and for a powerful reason.

Matthews was 8 years old when he first came to America to escape a civil war in his home country of Liberia. One of his first memories? A huge Fourth of July parade in New Jersey.

"I had never seen anything like that. The flags, the drums, everything. I remember watching in awe."

Martin with his wife.

He returned to Africa later on but came back to live in America again when fighting broke out in his home country. And when he returned, that big parade stuck in his memory.

"I always loved that about America. It was a place I could be safe. A place I could enjoy freedom," he said. "To celebrate the independence of the United States holds a deep place in my heart."

These days, Martin is big on having barbecues with friends to celebrate Independence Day. There are a lot of burgers and hot dogs, but he'll sometimes mix in traditional African dishes, too, like African-style kabobs, to introduce his friends to his heritage.

"It's a big thing in Africa for people to put fish on the grill, like the whole fish," he added. "You put the whole thing on there. It was the first time some of my American friends had ever tried fish on the grill that wasn't salmon."

But his favorite thing about the holiday is still the parades. "We get there early and wave our American flags. Every year I always wear some kind of American shirt. We sit there and watch everything. It's my way of saying thanks to my adopted country."

cricket, India, celebrating holiday, University of Michigan

Changing the rules to make it work.

Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash

4. Jay Pockyarath mixes cricket with an American-style barbecue on Independence Day.

"Ever since I was in eighth grade, all I wanted to do was come to the United States," he told Upworthy. After finishing college in India, he finally got the chance when studying nuclear medicine at the University of Michigan. From there, he married an American woman and started a family.

"The thing that works [in America] is that it's a meritocracy," Pockyarath said. "July Fourth is a celebration of that, in my mind. Of independence. Of the freedom to succeed."

Jay, who was born in India, proudly flies an American flag outside his home for July Fourth.

Pockyarath has lived in the United States for over 40 years, so it's no surprise that his holiday celebration looks pretty familiar: steak, hamburgers, and hot dogs on the grill. To him, what's really important is spending time with family.

"Usually we make up games," he laughed. "We play cricket — not the way it's supposed to be played, but with a tennis ball. We make up our own rules."

American flag, Fourth of July, friends and family, decorating

Embracing the traditions and bringing your own flare to it.

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

5. Natalia Paruz is originally from Israel, and she decorates everything in red, white, and blue.

Natalia is now a musician in New York City.

"First I came here with my parents [about 20 years ago] for a year. At the end of the year, they went back to Israel, and I wanted to stay here," she told Upworthy.

Now she works as a musician in New York City. And she absolutely, positively loves the Fourth of July.

"It's a really fun day. It's a day where you can put politics aside. It's a day for celebrating the joy of this country."

Natalia and her husband host friends every year for a big meal. "I love decorating the house for the holiday with the flags. There's always a big flag hanging from the flagpole. In the back, that's where I really go all out. Every tree gets some kind of decoration!"

"We make hot dogs, hamburgers — how can you not?" she said. "We also make tahini, which is a traditional Israeli food. It's made of sesame seeds and it becomes a paste and you spread it on pita bread. Our friends here love it."

Natalia says an overabundance of food "as if you're going to entertain a bunch of soldiers" is a nod to her Israeli roots.

This year, she's going out with friends to watch fireworks. "I wear a T-shirt that has an American flag on it and a bracelet with the colors of the flag. If you're celebrating, you might as well go to the maximum."

It turns out, celebrating America means different things to different people. And that's kind of the point.

In my mind, the only thing better than a Fourth of July party filled with burgers, steaks, beer, and fireworks is a Fourth of July party filled with all of those things plus Mexican food and African music and "English tea" and tahini and mariachi bands and more.

So whether we choose to embrace the "American way" of celebrating Independence Day (red meat and fireworks) or to use it as a chance to celebrate the unique melting pot of culture that is our country today or something in between, I think we can all agree that the America we have now is already pretty great.

This article originally appeared on 07.01.16

The funny thing about love is that the person we fall in love with, more often than not, we run into by accident. Another strange twist is that the love of our life is likely to show up when we least expect it.

The following story, which feels like the promise of a hit rom-com, comes courtesy of a twist of fate created by the World Cup and an Airbnb.

In 2013, after six years of battling an illness, Ana was living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Having been financially drained by years of being sick, she invested the last of her money to buy two bunk beds and convert one of her bedrooms into an Airbnb for small groups of friends.

The Airbnb was a last-ditch effort to pay her rent and medical bills. A year later, the modest investment grew into a success, Ana’s health began to return, and the World Cup, one of the largest sporting events in the world, was coming to Rio.

To take advantage of the soccer fanatics flocking to the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City), Ana and her roommate, Fabio, turned a half room in their apartment into an Airbnb rental to give tired soccer fans a place to sleep.

“Though it was a small (pantry!) room, we added a bunk bed and listed two beds on Airbnb. One day after the listing went live, we had tons of requests for ‘Fabio’s Pantry,’” she shared. “It was fully booked for the entire World Cup period except for one week in July.”

Around this time, Ana was feeling well enough to go on her first vacation in years and took a quick trip to Uruguay. Just before she left, Ana received a reservation from a man named "Darko B." for the only unbooked days in July.

“I have always been a big fan of the movie ‘Donnie Darko’ and thought it was a strange coincidence, but didn't think anything of it,” Ana wrote. “I accepted the request, let him know I would not be there for check-in and Fabio would care for him until I was back the following week.”

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Tina Platamura

A second helping of dessert. Candy before dinner. A few more minutes in the bath. Money for the ice cream truck.

I struggled to show you respect and appreciation while trying to make sure you didn't spoil my children. I thought you would turn them into “selfish brats" by giving them everything they wanted. I thought they might never learn to wait, to take turns, to share, because you granted their wishes as soon as they opened their mouths and pointed.

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Bach wrote a whole song about a woman obsessed with coffee. It's delightfully relatable.

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Public Domain (left) Photo by Hunter Newton on Unsplash (right)

Bach's 300-year-old Coffee Cantata feels surprisingly modern.

When you think of Johann Sebastian Bach, you might picture a bewigged man in tailcoats composing classical symphonies and concertos frequently associated with high-falutin' society. At the very least, you probably don't picture a comedian.

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"My girlfriend told me the greatest story. Apparently her 11-year-old also wanted to be a grown up this week and, in fact, not only did he treat his siblings like despised underlings, but when asked what he wanted, he said: 'I want the authority to be in charge of them and tell them what to do, because they deserve it!'


Well. My girlfriend and her husband are NOT AT ALL MESSING AROUND with parenting. Calmly, evenly, they granted his request to be a grown-up for a week by pulling him out of camp (the underlings still got to go, because they are 'such children') and sending him to work ALL DAY EVERY DAY with his dad. He has to get up early and shower and make breakfast for everyone. He has to kiss the underlings before he goes to work and tell them to have a great day and that he loves them. He has to work on a typing project during his office hours. He only gets to eat what his dad eats, because eating like a grown-up is not nearly as fun as eating like a kid.


Want to be an adult? Fine."

Photo via iStock.

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