Monday, September 16, 2013
El 16 de septiembre
Today is one of Mexico's two independence day celebrations, this one celebrating independence after three centuries under oppressive Spanish rule:
"In the early hours of September 16, 1810, father Hidalgo, accompanied by several conspirators –Iganacio Allende, Doña Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez- rang the bell of his little church, calling everyone to fight for liberty. This was the beginning of the Independence War, which lasted 10 years, and this is the moment that every 16th of September is re enacted in every plaza or zócalo of Mexico, and commemorated by Mexicans all over the world." (from http://www.inside-mexico.com/featureindep.htm)
This is know as el Grito, or the cry of independence, where everyone yells,
-QUE VIVA MEXICO! (long live Mexico)
Why am I sharing this with you all today? Well, you see, I was born in Mexico. Though my parents & four older siblings lived in Chicago, my parents being "resident aliens", my Dad had an incredible boss who gave him two months off every summer (every.summer!) to go to Mexico on vacation. Early in their marriage, my parents had built themselves a house just outside the city where they are from, and those two months every summer is when my parents and my older siblings spent their days, alongside the rest of our extended family. I was born in August-- when they were down there on summer vacation. On September 3, 1976, I was *almost* one month old, it was just before Labor Day, and we crossed back into the US because my siblings started school right after Labor Day back then. I immediately became a resident as my parents and sisters were residents and my brothers, both born in the US, were citizens.
By the age of 19 I didn't care much about renouncing my Mexican citizenship and becoming a US citizen, but the local news announced that the price to become a citizen (all the paperwork and such) was going to rise from $100 to $500. Knowing that I might one day regret it, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge. I did the appropriate paperwork, dotted all my i's and crossed all my t's, and then I waited. And waited and waited. It wasn't until I was 21 that I got notice that I had to take a citizenship test. Being that my entire education had been in the US (I was 21 and already had my Bachelor's degree!), well, I aced that test. Matter of fact, after the third question my interviewer said, "I think you know all of these answers and we just shouldn't bother. Is that ok with you?" Um, yeah!!! A few months later, I was already 22 and I was sworn in as a citizen.
But the funny thing is, at the swearing-in ceremony, which consisted of at least 300 people in a huge auditorium, so many others were celebrating. They had cakes of the American flag, they were waving around little American flags, taking pictures, hugging each other and carrying on. Some were even crying tears of joy.
I went by myself to the ceremony. There was no pomp and circumstance. It wasn't exciting to me. I felt like I was betraying Mexico in some way (even though I retained dual citizenship). When I got home, my parents patted me on the back and said it was the right thing to do but I didn't really *get* it, and the day went on like any other. My parents had become citizens the year before me and nobody made a big deal about it then, either.
But then I grew up! The US is where I live. This is where I'm making my living. This is where I have always lived and *WILL* always live. This is now where my son was born and where he will continue to live and carry out his days, God willing. And it is an AMAZING thing to be a citizen of the United States of America. I am part of a privileged group of people, most of whom don't even KNOW they're privileged, much like I was before.... when I had my head stuck in the sand! Those people at the swearing-in ceremony KNEW, they KNEW (!), what an honor and privilege it was to become a citizen of this great country. Many of them must have struggled and endured many hardships to get to that ceremony, but since I had always lived in the US, well, it was just any old thing to me. It wasn't special, it wasn't important, and I didn't really care either way.
How stupid I was.
And I don't even have a single picture of the event. NOT ONE SINGLE PICTURE!
Now I understand, and though I can say "ARRIBA MEXICO!" and celebrate their independence, because my blood is Mexican, I know at the end of the day that my heart is American. If it came down to it, I know which side of the line I stand on and who has my undying, unending, unbreakable loyalty. The United States of America. My home. My son's home. My immediate family's home. This country which has given me so much opportunity for advancement- seriously, how did my Dad never attend school for a single day of his life yet I'm an M.D.?! And my mother only made it through the 5th grade!- and now those same opportunities are there for my young child. The possibilities are overwhelming. You just have to set your mind to it and get 'er done! :)
Still, in that one little corner of my heart that bleeds green, white, and red, I say QUE VIVA MEXICO! VIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!