07 July 2014

July 4th In Exile

The Fourth of July- the epitome of all American holidays, because let's face it, it is America's holiday! It's a day full of celebrating "freedom" (I tend to use that term loosely) by barbequing it up with your friends and family while drinking large quantities of alcohol and lighting off explosives. That sounds like the most American thing you could come across.

But what about Americans like me? Who aren't in America anymore? Should we celebrate a country that "forced" (I also use that term loosely) us out by making us choose family or country? Should we celebrate America as Americans in another country? Does it disrespect the country that took us in? I wondered about how I could explain to my children that we celebrate this day in the US to mark our independence from tyranny, but tyranny persists today. I could explain the cost of freedom, but it's no longer the America that many veterans gave all for. It isn't just a 3-day weekend; it is a worthy holiday if it has been celebrated for 238 years... And how do I explain that we have to live in Mexico because in American where all men should be recognized as equal, they are not? As I sat in the park on Friday morning with my kids, these are the things I thought about.

I pondered all of these things throughout the day as I wathced everyone around me go about their normal business. Banks were open, stores were open, life was going on in Mexico because even though Tijuana is extremely Americanized, it is not America. It was not a holiday. We decided in the afternoon that we were going to head to Playas, which is the beach here in Tijuana. The border fence marks the end of Playas, where it runs straight out into the water. Usually at the beach, I am not so acutely aware of the fence as I was on Friday. I was on the wrong side of it, or was I?
You can see in the middle of the photograph the border fence; on the other side is California.
We decided to go to Playas because you can see the fireworks in San Diego, as well as Imperial Beach, and other places because there were FIVE firework shows going at once. And they were all coordinated. I don't know who plans those kinds of things, but they get a BIG A+ from us! Hector has not celebrated the 4th of July in 4 years; this year we did not buy the Old Navy Flag shirts like I usually do. It was an experience that we haven't had. As I watched the bombs burtsing in air, Hector asked me what it felt like to be watching something so American from Mexico, and I blurted out, "It's sad!". 

It was sad because I am American and I am not in my country. I don't belong in Mexico. My skin is an oddity, even in Tijuana which is so close to the line. I sometimes get heckled when I go to the market or when I even just walk down the street. People stare at me, but they do not approach me. English is widely spoken, but when I speak Spanish people are astounded. But I don't belong in America, either. I am either too conservative on most issues, or not conservative enough on immigration. I am not feminist enough; I am not skinny or pretty enough. Only in the US to I ever get self-concious about my appearance. I don't belong in the US because of my mixed-status family. I am lost here. I am lost there. I have to watch my American holiday, the truest essence of American Pride that there is, over the fence. I am an outsider, looking in at what was once mine; what I was once a part of. 

Even with all of that sadness, it was still once of the best Fourths I have celebrated in my life; my family was united. I missed and do miss every single person I left behind in the US, but last night, laying on the beach with my kids and Emilia and Hector, eating pizza and drinking coke, while Michael Jackson blared from some speakers, was American enough for me.


  1. I truly believe that you are luckier than you think being there.. Right now there seems to be so much hatred here. When adults are throwing rocks and protesting children being bused for housing, something it wrong.
    When every online news poll is followed by thousands of negative hateful comments, it is disheartening to say the least.. When people are mass grouped and stereotyped it is sickening.. I feel like I don't know my own country anymore.... I have been thinking that we should make the move south. But fear has kept me here.. I don't speak Spanish and feel I would have a very hard time fitting in.

    1. Right here on the border, you don't have to speak Spanish. It is helpful, but not necessary. I stayed out of fear for 3 years. The US is a mess in more ways than one...