Sunday, July 20th, is the day Colombians in our community and across the world remember their fight for independence.
In Union City, on July 18th, there was a Colombian flag raising ceremony across from City Hall in International Park, commemorating the event.
Mayor Brian P. Stack expressed how important it was to recognize the Columbian members of Union City's culture and their contributions: "Columbians have been such a vital part of the Union City community, from owning businesses to sending their children to our schools."
The vibrant colors, yellow, blue and red, of the Colombian national flag flowed through the crowd as the Mayor and Board of Commissioners honored distinguished Colombian members from the community. Dr. Vivian Villalobos, Mr. Javier Suarez, Mrs. Deysy Mena, and Mr. Jaime Velez received proclamations on behalf of the city, as citizens that represent the Colombian community through exemplary work and pride.
Fighting for freedom
Nearly two hundred years after revolutionary Simon Bolivar fought and won their freedom from Spain, Colombians still remember the true meaning behind this memorable celebration.
From July 20, 1810, to now, Colombia has traveled down a long bumpy road to success, but the present day conflicts prove the battle is not over.
"This Sunday is a special day for us to celebrate and remember the peace," said an emotional Union City resident, Jhon Jairo Ramirez Hoffmuan.
The Independence Day holds a particular place in the heart of Mario Torres. He was a political exile from Colombia, whose family was threatened by attacks from the terrorist organization, "Las FARC." The flags, shirts, Colombian Orchestra and traditional foods all excite Mr. Torres.
However, he views the Independence Day as a chance to "instill the sense of history into the children, so they won't forget where they came from and their customs."
Colombia has the third-largest population in South America, and immigrants have spread to all parts of the globe with large groups here in Hudson County, Elizabeth, and Flushing, Queens.
Many Union City residents are excited for the parties in Flushing on Sunday or flock to Flushing to pray with Chucha, the famous Colombian priest.
"My favorite is the music and dancing," said Union City bus driver, Carlos Sanchez.
Celebrating two victories
Actually, Colombia splits their Independence Day celebrations between two dates, July 20th and August 7th, because of the two key victories won by Simon Bolivar. However, the festivities for this holiday typically take place on July 20th in the U.S.
Bolivar, who liberated five other South American countries, went on to become Colombia's first president. Today, citizens in Colombia stop working on the holiday, to enjoy a military parade. They honor the soldiers, who lost their lives by keeping their faith in the revolution.
Thousands of miles away, this feeling of nationalism still spread through the streets of Union City. Up and down Bergenline Avenue, through the Colombian bakeries and restaurants, national pride and anticipation builds. "We have a deeper pride here [in America]," said Mr. Torres. "We celebrate with more heart because we are so far away."
On Thursday, July 24th, at 8:00 pm, the festivities continue. Mayor Brian P. Stack and the Board of Commissioners, in collaboration with The Grace Theatre Workshop, Inc. will present "Colombia Canta" in Ellsworth Park, at New York Ave. & 23rd St.
The concert, under the direction of Rafael Palacios, will commemorate Colombia's Independence Day. The enchanting event will feature guitarist Jorge Chiquillo, singer Roxana, and actress of poetry Adriana Hernandez. Admission is free and folding chairs will be provided, but be sure to arrive early.
Mayor Stack and the Board of Commissioners have always celebrated the Colombian Independence Day in Union City with flag raisings or parades, as they do for every nationality in Union City's diverse district.
"I think this does set Union City apart from other communities," said Stack. "We may not be a financially wealthy community, but celebrating their heritage shows how we are so rich culturally."
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