Clifton Celebrates Colombian Independence Day
On Sunday, July 30th, the Colombian flag flew tall and waved proudly in front of City Hall before many overjoyed Colombian Clifton residents, singing along to “Himno Nacional de la República de Colombia,” or the Colombian National Anthem, and watching as the flag lifted higher and higher above their heads.
Following the tradition of flag raising throughout the summers of each year, it finally came time to honor Colombia and its legacy in New Jersey and Clifton with its very own flag ceremony and mini-festival. There were many people in attendance on the beautiful sunny July afternoon with over 40 people forming a sea of yellow, blue, and red that overtook the front lawn of City Hall. With most people donning Colombian soccer jerseys, traditional Colombian outfits such as Huila dresses, and other clothes showcasing the flag’s colors, families and friends gathered on the grass, singing along to the upbeat music that rang from the speakers and basking in the joyfulness that permeated the air.
Colombians have long been established in the U.S. with Colombian immigration gaining a majority of its momentum in the 1950s and skyrocketing in the second half of the 1900s, allowing for Colombian communities to create a rich history in the United States. In fact, New Jersey has the third largest population of Colombian-Americans in the United States, with Clifton coming in third in the same regard in the state. It was not only their vast impact on American culture that was being celebrated at City Hall with the raising of the country’s flag, but their independence from Spain as well, which they gained officially in 1819 on August 7th. However, Colombia’s official independence day is July 20th as this was the day their independence movement began in 1810, despite it taking several more years until they would be free from Spanish rule.
The ceremony consisted of a number of speakers, each expressing their honor and pride to be a part of such an occasion and often cheering, “Que viva Colombia!” or “Long live Colombia.” Speakers included City Manager Nick Villano, a priest who led a prayer in Spanish and bestowed his blessing upon the celebration, thanking God for providing Colombians with opportunities in America, and Guest of Honor Andre Sayegh, the Mayor of Paterson. In his portion of the program, Sayegh detailed the history behind Colombian independence, describing how the yellow of the flag represents the “sun that shines on Colombia,” the blue which symbolizes both the sky and the ocean, and the red for “the blood that was shed fighting for Colombian independence.”
Another notable speech included an address from Senator Robert Menedez, who sent a representative to deliver his words in both English and Spanish.
“Your flag raising highlights the heritage and contribution of the proud Colombian-Americans in the state of New Jersey,' wrote Menedez, “they are a hard-working community that has strengthened our state with your culture and enormous spirit over the decades. As your community grows and develops in the city of Clifton, I hope this is one of many future commemorations that will highlight Colombian-Americans in your city and the state.”
The ceremony ended with an array of performances featuring traditional Colombian music and dancing, with many of the attendees joining in on the festivities. One performance saw several teenagers dancing the Bambuco, a waltz popular in Colombia in which men don a white shirt, red bandanas tied around their neck, and dark pants while the women sport long, brightly colored skirts and blouses. Click here for an example.
The impact Colombia and its people have on Clifton, New Jersey, and the United States will always be remembered, forever leaving a mark on our nation’s history and future along with each and every immigrant who has come to America looking for something new. In these flag raisings, Clifton is giving their thanks and appreciation to the nations that make the United States the country it is, honoring the beauty of our melting-pot nation.