Happy Birthday, USA, from an American in Spain!

I awoke this morning and was going about my daily routine when it dawned on me, probably at about 9:30am, “HEY! This is the 4th of July!” For some reason the song “God Bless America” came to mind so I whistled it until I got to the gym.

So…. where are all the American flags? Where are the fireworks? Where are the front page photos of families watching parades down Main Streets? (with floats which pass by every few seconds, mind you! (see previous blog posting))

Oh, right. I live in Spain now. Here, they only tote out the Spanish flags for political speeches and political demonstrations. Otherwise, the flags are likely “in the closet” ’round these parts. You did see many many more of them last summer when Spain won the World Cup – and they even hung around for a good month afterwards but even then they slowly disappeared. This is not to say that Spaniards don’t love their country. They do – albeit with a different perspective. They just don’t care too much about the flag – or flags, in general.

Here, you do get frequent fireworks throughout the year. Here, particularly in the summer, you get fireworks (sometimes) at the midnight starting and the midnight ending any one of the MANY Saint’s Days they have in Spain. And they have A LOT of them! Actually, every day of the year is some Saint’s Day but they typically only pull out the rockets with red glare (or whatever color) for the biggies.

So far I haven’t heard any mention of USA’s National Holiday on Spanish TV or radio news or in print newspapers, but surely it’s there somewhere. Why would SPAIN/Spaniards care if it’s the USA’s birthday anyway? If anything, they’re still grinding their ancestor’s teeth for having lost the entire northern and southern continents several hundred years ago, the last 3 lost being Cuba, Philippines, and Puerto Rico in 1898 (that’s what WikiPedia says, anyway) after losing the Spanish-America War that year. On second thought, SPANIARDS didn’t “lose” all those colonies, their Kings and Queens and governments did. The “loss” of those colonies didn’t affect the Spaniard-on-the-street whatsoever.

Here they celebrate the “Fiesta Nacional de España” (a.k.a “Día de la Hispanidad” – when Columbus “discovered” the Americas)  or “The Spanish National Holiday” on the 12th of October, with a big military parade presided over by the King of Spain himself. This is Spain’s ME-day when lots of flags can be seen along the parade route and usually waved by one proud political party member and not by the other political party members. It’s also the Saint’s day for El Pilar, by the way, which is one of those biggies.

Funny, to me, that “national pride” in Spain is generally only displayed, discussed, and oozed-over by members of one of the Spanish political parties. Members of other political parties tend to believe that your nationality was given to you simply by birth, by fate, something for which you had no control and so there is no reason to be proud of it. It wasn’t something gained through personal acquisition, struggle, or victory in battle.

So maybe that’s the difference here. The Iberian Peninsula has always been the Iberian Peninsula, occupied to some degree by one group or other since the beginning of time. Sure, there were always territory wars, but the ancestors of most Spaniards living here now have been living here for several hundred or maybe even thousands of years. The most recent “occupiers” of Spain were the Moors – which mainly only occupied the southern part of Spain – which were driven out in 1492, the same year Columbus “discovered” the Americas in the name of the Kingdom of Spain. Most “Americans” (immigrants which came over on the boat) have only been living in the USA for the last 100 or 200 years, in some cases. Comparing the two cultures and history can shed some light on why one group is more “nationalistic” than the other.

America. North America, or, more specifically, the United States of America is celebrating their birthday today. Happy Birthday, USA! Oh, how many hot dogs, hamburgers, and scoops of potato salad have I eaten on this day in my life?! ANSWER: MANY! I think I’ll celebrate by simply having a hot dog for dinner and maybe watching the movie “ROCKY”. It doesn’t get any more “American” than that!

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