A diverse and colorful crowd celebrated the Independence Day of the United States on Tuesday in the streets of Washington, one of the most important celebrations in the country, no longer restricted by COVID-19, although overshadowed by recent news of mass shootings.
Despite the heat wave and humidity, the US capital celebrated the customary procession of military bands, caravans and giant balloons and welcomed thousands of people dressed in the traditional colors of red, white and blue, who filled monuments and parks for hours. in the morning.
The most enthusiastic came at noon to reserve seats to have a better view of the fireworks shows that usually mark a day in which schools, businesses and non-essential services close throughout the country.
A multicultural party
The parade of bands and organizations began from the National Archives, where the original document of the Declaration of Independence, which was formally adopted on July 4, 1776, and sealed the separation of the former Thirteen Colonies from the British Empire, is on permanent display.
The procession, which lasted more than two hours and stretched for almost three kilometers, included floats and demonstrations by schools, groups and communities of different nationalities, as a sign of the nation’s multicultural origin.
One of the most striking floats was the allegory to Ukraine, with the blue and yellow colors of that country’s flag and a banner that read in English: “Thank you USA for supporting Ukraine”, in reference to US support in the war against Russia.
“I have always come,” he said to the voice of america the Guatemalan Robinson Enrique Pérez, who assures that since he arrived in the US he has not missed the multicolored event, in which flags of different countries could be seen, including several Latin American nations. “Today 3 years ago.”
The 4th of July party, he explains, helps him “to get out of the routine” of the day. “I like to come to see; we are Latinos, we like to party, the party attracts our attention. Our whole life is routine here, so one day, once a year, well, we have to get out of it,” he said with a smile. .
Hundreds of tourists also came to the US capital to experience the party, which this year was held again with pre-pandemic levels of attendance.
Juliana Andrea Ramos, a Colombian from Bogotá, told the VOA who wanted to visit Washington expressly to experience the 4th of July in the city.
“The environment is very nice,” he said. “You walk and you can see the bands practicing, plus today is a very nice day (…) I think we’re going to have a great time.”
The young woman, who is traveling with her family, announced that after the parade they would walk to the Lincoln Memorial and tour the rest of the monuments, a plan shared by thousands of people on what is possibly one of the busiest days of the year for the capital.
“It is a country that has a lot of pride; that is, it loves its homeland very much, which celebrates it. You don’t see this anywhere, a celebration like that for Independence Day,” he said.
The high temperatures and the influx of people also help merchants and street vendors who continue to offer services during the holiday, such as the Mexican José Armando Hernández.
Hernández, 21, has been selling ice cream in the US capital for six months. “It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this, it’s very good and the atmosphere is very nice (…) Let’s hope there are good sales,” he said.
hot dogsbarbecues and fireworks
The tradition of celebrating the 4th of July behind closed doors is observed across the country. In all American cities, barbecues were set up in gardens, patios and streets, many festooned with the Stars and Stripes flag.
The hot dogs or hot dogs, cooked on the grill today, are the most traditional food of this holiday, a custom that will be followed even in the White House, where this Tuesday President Joe Biden will honor veterans and relatives of fallen military personnel.
The president and the first lady, Jill Biden, will join their guests on the lawn of the presidential residence to witness the fireworks display in Washington, one of the largest in the country.
As usual in US parties, each community contributes elements of its culture, a founding characteristic of a nation like the United States, the result of migration.
In Florida, the celebrations move from the backyards to the beaches, where you can taste Argentine barbecues, pork with mojo, tacos, pupusas, arepas or paisa bandejas.
“As every year we are going to celebrate the 4th of July with a dip in the beach,” he told the VOA Enrique Santiago, a Cuban resident in the town of Hollywood, north of Miami.
For Santiago and his family, it is “something very big” to be able to celebrate “the traditions of this great country that welcomed my family and me.”
The shadow of gun violence
Amid the festive spirit, the rising tide of gun violence has marred this year’s celebrations for many. News of mass shootings during the holidays has raised concerns and questions about whether it is safe to attend large events.
This Monday night, a gunman wearing a bulletproof vest opened fire on the streets of Philadelphiakilling five people and injuring two children, according to police reports.
The shooting came a day after another incident at a weekend party in nearby Baltimore that killed two people and wounded 28 others.
This July 4, the inhabitants of Highland Park, Illinois, also remember the seven victims of the mass shooting during an Independence Day parade in 2022, which left 26 injured and a community that has not yet recovered.
“Today, Jill and I grieve for those who have lost their lives, and as our nation celebrates Independence Day, we pray for the day our communities are free from gun violence,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
Biden recalled the events in Highland Park. “In a few moments, this day of patriotic pride became a scene of pain and tragedy,” the president stressed in a statement where he redoubled his call to ban the sale of assault rifles like the AR-15, the most used in mass shootings in the country.
Precaution in the face of possible incidents has led to increased security in large cities, such as Washington and Miami, where police patrols can be seen along beaches and parks.
Although it remains open to the public throughout the year, on July 4, a large part of the Alameda Nacional in the capital has been cordoned off by security meshes to establish checkpoints for tourists and locals who want to approach monuments such as the Obelisk and the Memorial to Lincoln.
Local officials and authorities check the belongings that people carry with them at each point, prohibiting the entry of weapons of any kind.
It is in this area where after 9 pm the long-awaited fireworks show will take place.
“There is more security because it is the capital, the president is here, the highest public officials are (…) I feel very safe,” he confirmed to the VOA Guatemalan Robinson Enrique Perez.