I am an empath when it comes to immigrants. Perhaps it’s because I am the daughter of two brave immigrants.
I was born to a pair of fighters, a Cuban father who risked his life for freedom and a Colombian-Palestinian mother who left everything behind for the man she loved. They were far from perfect but they made it work. They did their best at assimilating the culture, at learning the language and adapting to a new life. Together they built a small empire, gave me life, raised me, taught me to be tough and not to fear anything, to work hard and to respect others. They broke their backs to send me to private school and two reputable universities. These immigrants taught me that there was no room for failure. Pa’tras ni pa’ coger impulso. Push forward; it’s the one thing I learned to do incredibly well.
And so today we celebrate America and its independence. But today, I’m thinking about the Native Americans whose land we borrowed, whose land we stole…the true “Americans”. Today, I’m thinking about all the slaves who were usurped from their homelands and forced to build this country through blood, sweat, and tears. Today, I’m thinking about Tonia, my Vietnamese nail technician, who works a consistent 6 day / 70 hour work week, who alongside her family invested every single dime into their business. Today I’m thinking about Javier, the Mexican maintenance man, who works the night shift as a cook in Denny’s 4 times a week, sleeps an hour or two, and goes to his other job from 7am to 5pm doing repairs in three different buildings. Today, I’m thinking about all the Asian masseuses I frequent who work 12-hour shifts 6 days a week for peanuts, who dedicate their entire lives to make ends meet. Today, I’m thinking about that man from Bangladesh in his late 60s I spoke to last week who works at the gas station under the blazing sun making sure the car wash line runs smoothly.
And so today, on the 4th of July, I will raise my glass to all the immigrants who are as American as the Pilgrims, who were brave enough to cross our borders and sail across oceans to touch our soil. A toast to all those who came here in hopes of a better life. America, you are far from perfect but indeed you are the land of the free and the home of the brave. May you continue to welcome all the brave hearts that have made you the beautiful and powerful country that you are.