Celebrating our independence

HARLINGEN — Greg Bader conveyed in every word a sense of protection, of quiet vigilance for the future of his family.

“Independence Day means the birth of our country 241 years ago,” said Bader.

He and his wife Maricela and their 6-year-old daughter Desarie were strolling through Freedom Fest yesterday afternoon at Lon C. Hill Park. With them were Desarie’s two young cousins, Josie and Amy.

They were all enjoying the freedoms of which Bader spoke with such conviction.

“This gives them the same freedoms I grew up with,” he said with authority.

The Fifth Annual Freedom Fest, presented by the Harlingen Convention and Visitors Bureau, had filled the park with vendors selling tacos, onion blossoms and brisket sandwiches.

People sat in folding chairs and listened to live bands, children jumped inside inflatable bouncers and soap bubbles flew through the air.

“Sodas, hot dogs,” called Minnie Ramirez, team mom for the Super Girls softball team.

Her daughter Savannah, 14, is on the team, and they’ve been exercising their right to form teams and leagues.

Yesterday, they were raising money to keep playing and competing.

Savannah stopped to consider for a moment how she’d feel if someone from far away suddenly decided he knew more about her softball team than she did.

The anger and irritation were evident.

“I would feel that’s not right,” she said, grimacing. “He doesn’t know me or my team.”

She easily made the connection. This was the same absurdity which occurred 241 years ago when the King of England asserted too strongly his ability to determine affairs in the American colonies 3,000 miles away. Savannah and her friends would not put up with it any more than the Founding Fathers did — and that’s how we wound up with a new country.

Her mother observed that more people seem aware of the significance of July 4 than they have been in the past.

“I think she understands why we celebrate the Fourth of July,” Ramirez said.

“She realizes how lucky we are to have our softball team.”

Across the walkway, Ana Reyes was selling fajitas, sandwich combos and other dishes she’s been preparing for years.

“Here in the U.S., we have more liberties, freedoms to do what we dream of,” said Reyes, 54, owner of Old Rusty’s BBQ.

Reyes was born in Mexico but immigrated to the United States at age 12 where she later became a naturalized citizen.

“You can do whatever your dream is if you have the drive to do it,” she said.