+
upworthy
Democracy

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

via Pixabay

A sad-looking Labrador Retriever

The sweet-faced, loveable Labrador Retriever is no longer America’s favorite dog breed. The breed best known for having a heart of gold has been replaced by the smaller, more urban-friendly French Bulldog.

According to the American Kennel Club, for the past 31 years, the Labrador Retriever was America’s favorite dog, but it was eclipsed in 2022 by the Frenchie. The rankings are based on nearly 716,500 dogs newly registered in 2022, of which about 1 in 7 were Frenchies. Around 108,000 French Bulldogs were recorded in the U.S. in 2022, surpassing Labrador Retrievers by over 21,000.


The French Bulldog’s popularity has grown exponentially over the past decade. They were the #14 most popular breed in 2012, and since then, registrations have gone up 1,000%, bringing them to the top of the breed popularity rankings.

The AKC says that the American Hairless Terrier, Gordon Setter, Italian Greyhound and Anatolian Shepherd Dog also grew in popularity between 2021 and 2022.

The French Bulldog was famous among America’s upper class around the turn of the 20th century but then fell out of favor. Their resurgence is partly based on several celebrities who have gone public with their Frenchie love. Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Thee Stallion, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Reese Witherspoon and Lady Gaga all own French Bulldogs.

The breed earned a lot of attention as show dogs last year when a Frenchie named Winston took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and first in the National Dog Show.

The breed made national news in early 2021 when Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest while walking two of her Frenchies in a dog heist. He recovered from his injuries, and the dogs were later returned.

They’ve also become popular because of their unique look and personalities.

“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa told the AP. She said they are city-friendly with modest grooming needs and “they offer a lot in a small package.”

They are also popular with people who live in apartments. According to the AKC, Frenchies don’t bark much and do not require a lot of outdoor exercise.

The French Bulldog stands out among other breeds because it looks like a miniature bulldog but has large, expressive bat-like ears that are its trademark feature. However, their popularity isn’t without controversy. “French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” veterinarian Dr. Carrie Stefaniak told the AP.

american kennel club, french bulldog, most popular dog

An adorable French Bulldog

via Pixabay

French Bulldogs have been bred to have abnormally large heads, which means that large litters usually need to be delivered by C-section, an expensive procedure that can be dangerous for the mother. They are also prone to multiple health problems, including skin, ear, and eye infections. Their flat face means they often suffer from respiratory problems and heat intolerance.

Frenchies are also more prone to spine deformations and nerve pain as they age.

Here are the AKC’s top ten most popular dog breeds for 2022.

1 French Bulldogs

2 Labrador Retrievers

3 Golden Retrievers

4 German Shepherd Dogs

5 Poodles

6 Bulldogs

7 Rottweilers

8 Beagles

9 Dachshunds

10 German Shorthaired Pointers


This article originally appeared on 03.17.23

Pop Culture

Woman who moved to Italy lists the most basic human needs Americans now have to pay for

Remember when these things used to be free? They still are in some places.

Representative image from Canva

If you're feeling like everything is just out of reach, you're not alone.

How many times have you, or someone in your circle, made this joke:

“I can’t seem to go outside without spending money!

But, as with many jokes, there’s some dark truth layered in. Life just feels a little hard right now for many of us when it comes to finances. And one person has hit the nail on the head as to why. Spoiler alert: it probably has nothing to do with anyone being lazy.

Amber Cimiotti, a mom of two and expat living in Italy, begins her video by noting how America has removed naturally occurring activities like “exercise, talking to friends, connecting with people, spending time with our kids,” from everyday life. And so now, Americans only have access to these very necessary things if they are able to pay for them.


For example—let’s talk about exercise. Cimiotti notes how "there's not many places, neighborhoods, and cities where it's super easy to walk everywhere, where you can get a lot of natural exercise, whether it's walking to and from your house or to the grocery stores. This just doesn't exist for most people now, so you have to wake up earlier on your lunch break or after work; you have to go to the gym so you can get in your exercise." Which means someone has to have anywhere between $40 to upwards of $300+ a month to invest in their physical health in this way.

Next up—mental health resources, primarily in the form of real conversations in a supportive community. Cimiotti says “people are meant to share their struggles, their stories, everyday, constantly. And we’re not doing that. And what do you see happening? Nowadays, everybody needs a therapist. Yes, therapy is needed for some things but most people just need to be talking to people way more. And I don’t mean like trolling on the internet.”

Also—child care. "There used to be kids running around neighborhoods all the time. Parents didn't have to pay all this extra money to do activities so their kids can be involved in things; parents didn't have to drive all over the place... But now that doesn't exist. So we do need to pay for activities,” Cimiotti says.

Lastly—food. “Eating healthy food in America is a part-time job, if not a full-time job…it would all be so much easier if we just had healthy food in general.” I don’t think Cimiotti needs to convince anyone here that quality food (food in general, really) is definitely not accessible for many folks, and high prices are at least partially to blame.

“The point is when things don’t happen naturally in your day and you need to take extra energy to achieve basic things like healthy food, exercise, talking to friends, which helps regulate emotions and things like that…when you have to build those into therapy sessions, exercise sessions, hobbies, reading 17 books…of course you’ll be tired,” Cimiotti concludes with a big sigh.

@ciaoamberc #america #culture #family #friends #parenting #society ♬ original sound - Ciao AmberC

Down in the comments, people seemed to really resonate with what Cimiotti had to say.

One reader commented, “I’m totally convinced that a lot of therapy effects could be achieved by processing time with an array of friends in different stages of life. Which isn’t possible to mutually schedule like therapy.”


And while Cimiotti’s video might be sobering, she tells Buzzfeed that her hope is it can lead to more conversations that “help lead to a change.”

Judging by some of the viewer reactions, it seems she’s succeeded, at least in helping people not blame themselves for their challenges. One person shared, “It’s so validating to hear cause I feel like I never have enough time to just live well and not be completely exhausted and have space left to do fun stuff!”

Family

Heartwarming comics break down complex parenting issues with ease

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Writing comics helped a father struggling with anxiety and depression.

Christopher Grady, a father and teacher from Toronto, was struggling with anxiety and depression. That's when he started drawing.

He describes his early cartoons and illustrations as a journal where he'd chronicle everyday moments from his life as a husband, elementary school teacher, and father to two kids.

"I needed a positive place to focus all my thoughts and found that when I was making comics I felt a little bit better," he says.

He began putting a few of his comics online, not expecting much of a response. But he quickly learned that people were connecting with his work in a deep way.


The comics series called Lunarbaboon was born, and the response to the first few was so powerful that Grady was inspired do more with his comics than just document his own experience.

"I began getting messages from many people about how they connected to the comics and it gave them hope and strength as they went through their own dark times," he says.

"When they look back…they probably won't remember what was said…or where you were when you said it. They may not remember any details of your time together. But they will remember that you were there…and that's what matters most."

"Usually the circle of people we can support, help, influence is limited to our families, friends, coworkers, random stranger at the bus stop, but with my comic I suddenly found my circle of power was much much larger," Grady explains. "I guess I decided to use this power for good."

Grady continued to draw, making a point to infuse the panels with his own special brand of positivity.

"Kids are always watching adults and they look to the adults as role models," he says. "I try to show (my kids and students) that even with all my flaws and weaknesses I am still a good person and I can still make a positive change in the world."

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

Check out Grady's take on teaching his son about consent. (All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission.)

consent, relationship advice, father son advice, family

A comic about listening and respecting your partner.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Here's one about parents being supportive of a gay son or daughter.

sexual orientation, parenting gay children, positive messages, gender orientation

Parents being supportive of their gay son.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

On raising girls in a patriarchal world.

adulting, education, medical field, dreams

Comic encourages girls to chase all their dreams.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

And here's a sweet one about appreciating the heck out of his wife.

motherhood, moms, childbirth, family

Mom one ups dad easily.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Big topics. Important issues. Grady tackles them with humility and ease.

As Lunarbaboon has continued to grow, Grady says the messages of support he gets have become increasingly powerful.

He certainly doesn't claim to have all the answers to all the complexities of parenting, but he does say that "people like knowing they aren't alone in life's daily struggles. Most people who contact me just want to say thank you for putting something positive into the world."

Grady doesn't expect his Lunarbaboon comics to fix rape culture or end bigotry. He just hopes his message of love, inclusion, and positivity continues to spread.

inclusion, gender roles, social anxiety, happy

Teaching children to accept what might be different.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

"My hope is that for the short time people read it they smile and feel good," he says. "Then I hope they take that good feeling and smile into the world and make it slightly brighter."

You can check out even more of Grady's awesome work over on his website or in his newly published book.


This article was originally published on 11.30.17

Tennessee state senator gives fiery speech on arming teachers

Every once in a while a state's bill will make a blip on national media that causes people to dig a little deeper into what's happening. One such bill made headlines last year for a brief time before a new bill from another state took it's place.

After a tragic school shooting in the state of Tennessee where six people were killed, including three young students, state politicians began talking about arming the teachers. The idea was if teachers were armed then they would be able to stop school shooters, but the bill was widely unpopular among teachers and many parents. That didn't stop the state legislature from drawing up the bill and putting it up for a vote April 2024.

Many parents showed up to Tennessee State Senate to protest the bill, but it was the fiery speech of State Senator London Lamar that has people talking.


The new mom held her infant son in her arms while she addressed her colleagues who saw fit to laugh after moms protesting the bill were asked to leave. Lamar did not hold back in not only expressing her disappointment in her colleagues behavior but their disregard for very real concerns that she also shares with the people asked to leave.

"We are literally talking about arming educators who took an oath to teach our kids writing and arithmetic and how they can one day contribute to Tennessee's great economy, and we're now turning them into law enforcement agents by arming them with guns. We think this piece of legislation is going to keep kids safe which is probably going to enable the next school shooter, and it's not going to be someone coming in from the outside. It's unfortunately going to be a teacher with this piece of legislation," Lamar declares.

You can watch her passionate speech below:

@iamcalledlucas/Instagram, used with permission

We need every Lucas version of Taylor's songs.

Sure, Taylor Swift did a great job at writing, performing in and directing her “Fortnitemusic video (which has only dropped a couple days ago and already at over 30 million views)…but you know what could make it even better? Having a dog perform all the parts, that’s what!

And that’s exactly the treat we received, thanks to an adorable dachshund named Lucas.

The clip (aptly titled “Fortnight (Lucas’ version)”) recreates the music video’s black-and-white typewriter scene, where the camera alternates between a moody Swift and Post Malone clacking as they lament about how much love is “ruining” their lives. you know, basic tortured poets stuff.


Only this time, Lucas plays both the roles—costumes as all! Major kudos to Lucas’ parent, who clearly has an eye for detail and camera angles. Both the original video and Lucas’ video play simultaneously so you can really see how similar they are.

“I look like @taylorswift in this light, i’m lovin’ it 🤭🤍,” the clip caption says.

Watch below. Spoiler alert: get ready to see little doggy paws in lace gloves.

Down in the comments, people were enthralled.

One person wrote, "THIS NEEDS MORE ATTENTION”

"Magical!!!!!!!" another added.

Though clearly Lucas’s is a whole ‘nother level of Swiftie, is he not the only dog to be a fan. In an experiment produced by WoofWoof, dogs were “visibly more relaxed” by her music than other artists in the study. Her songs got more tail wagging and even more “howls of approval.” That’s right, her music transcends species.

Just like Taylor Swift, Lucas has many, many more music videos where they came from, including “The Archer,” “Hoax” and “You Belong with Me.” And just like Swift, he outdoes himself with every new project.

Check out even more of his content on Instagram and TikTok.