Yesterday was the 4th of July. America’s 241st birthday. I’m old enough to vividly remember the Bicentennial and all the hoopla and buildup that went into that. I was a teenager then, so if that was really 41 years ago, I guess that means that I’m really old now. Even though these “normal” birthdays for America aren’t as hyped as the “major” ones like the upcoming Sestercentennial in 2026, I still love the 4th of July. It’s a simple feel good, family fun holiday with patriotic undertones and psychedelic fireworks.
For the last 3 years I’ve lived in Houston, Texas. Most people know that Houston is the 4th largest city in the US, but many don’t realize that it’s also the most culturally diverse city in the US. In addition to it’s warm weather, vibrant economy and consistent winds, its diversity is one of the things I love most about Houston.
As I’m known to do on many weekends (and reportedly sometimes during the week after work), I went kiteboarding yesterday. On the weekends I normally go the the Texas City Levee or the Dike. The Texas City Dike is literally a 5 mile long Road to Nowhere which juts out into Galveston Bay. It’s a very popular destination for fishing, boating, beach going, picnicking and for some of us, kiteboarding. The fact that you can drive out onto the hard packed beach allows a pretty high usage density among the locals. It’s always pretty crowded on the weekends, but on major holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, or yesterday’s American birthday party, it truly becomes a Human Zoo. I’m guessing there were somewhere around 30 thousand people and at least 10 thousand barbeque grills out on the Dike yesterday, cars tightly parked in several rows along the entire shore line.
I’m not even going to speculate on the reasons, but the Dike always seems to serve as a cultural sieve. The cultural demographics on the tip of the Dike just don’t match the aggregate demographics of Houston . Walking up and down the beach yesterday, my informal spoken dialogue survey indicated probably 80% Spanish, 10% Vietnamese, 5% Chinese and 5% English speakers. As I kited on my foilboard back and forth 100m off shore, the delicious aromas of carnitas, pollo asada, fried fish and Vietnamese crawfish wafted past me, and beats mixing Hip-hop and Latin pop boomed from the many competing sound systems. It is always a super festive multi-cultural atmosphere on the Dike. Flags were flying everywhere along the length of the shore, mostly American, but with plenty of Texan, a few Mexican flags and I even spotted a few Italian, Chilean and Nicaraguan banners.
Because the beach was so crowded, I had to use a certain beach cabana with 3 flags on a tall pole as my landmark for where to come back ashore after kiting. This tall pole had an American flag, a Houston Astros flag and a hybrid Rockets/Texans/Astros flag. It served as the perfect patriotic Houston hometown pride re-entry marker. The multi-generational family of 9 under the awning eating corn and chicken were all speaking Spanish and I asked one of the young teenage boys where they were from. Paco told me he was 13 and that his family was from El Salvador. He was born in Houston but his parents and grandma (seated, smiling and eating) all immigrated from El Salvador. They really didn’t seem to be rapists, murders or drug lords. They seemed like flag flying Americans to me, enjoying their freedom to chill on the beach.
Recently, under our current administration, I’m not always 100% proud to be an American, but I’m always 100% glad to be an American. Fly your flag. God Bless America.