By DOUGLAS HANKS
Tamales, Bavarian potato salad and newfound freedom: Fourth of July often takes on a foreign twist in S. Florida.
Yadira Contrera has lived through 22 Fourths of July in America, but this will be her first as an American. She became a U.S. citizen this year and plans on following her typical Fourth routine on Monday — at least externally.
“I’ll be celebrating with my family, eating and throwing fireworks, like every other year,’’ Contrera, 61, said during a break from the Nicaraguan restaurant she owns in Sweetwater. “But this year will be sweeter. This year, it will be more special.”
In South Florida, an all-American holiday can get particularly complicated. With foreign-born residents topping 1.5 million, it’s one of the largest immigrant populations in the United States and accounts for about one out of every three South Florida residents. As a result, the region watches a holiday devoted to all things American unfold with more than a dose of foreign flavoring.
To get a measure of this American holiday among those who have adopted the country as their own, The Miami Herald dispatched reporters to ethnic restaurants across South Florida. The assignment: Find out Fourth of July plans for both the proprietors and customers.
The reports follow:
3655 NW 107th Ave., Doral
Over in Doral at La Coriana, a Venezuelan restaurant, Karvin Lau, 21, enjoyed an evening traditional snack from his native country.
“I don’t plan on returning back to my country,” said Lau, who munched on a patacón, a sandwich made with slices of twice-fried green plantain and shredded beef.
He moved to the United States four years ago for personal security and is studying architecture in Los Angeles.
Kendall resident Karla Casabone, 34, from Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela, didn’t feel culture shock when she arrived in the United States in 2004. Because she had worked at a marina, she’d had plenty of contact with U.S. sailors and was familiar with American holidays.
“I remember we would party and have barbecue and throw fireworks during the Fourth of July,” she said.
When she first arrived, she didn’t expect to stay, but she fell in love and married a U.S. citizen. Fitting in wasn’t difficult for Casabone, who works as a schedule coordinator for a physical therapy office.
“In South America, you see so many movies that are from here, that the Fourth of July is a holiday you grow accustomed to,” she said. “Everyone knows about it since it is a big deal for the Americans.”
— Rodolfo Roman