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In LA's immigrant enclaves, July 4 takes on different forms, flavors - and meanings

Javier Velasquez and his wife add spices to the carne asada on the grill. The family has been celebrating July 4 at South Gate Park for 13 years.
Javier Velasquez and his wife add spices to the carne asada on the grill. The family has been celebrating July 4 at South Gate Park for 13 years.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
Javier Velasquez and his wife add spices to the carne asada on the grill. The family has been celebrating July 4 at South Gate Park for 13 years.
A man slices watermelon at a picnic in South Gate Park on July 4, 2016. The park draws large crowds each year for a carnival and evening fireworks.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
Javier Velasquez and his wife add spices to the carne asada on the grill. The family has been celebrating July 4 at South Gate Park for 13 years.
Tony Reynoso relaxes with relatives at South Gate Park on July 4, 2016. Reynoso came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1973. He said he felt thankful for an adopted country that has received him "with open arms."
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
Javier Velasquez and his wife add spices to the carne asada on the grill. The family has been celebrating July 4 at South Gate Park for 13 years.
Food vendors set up in South Gate Park on July 4, 2016 as U.S. and Mexican flags wave in the background.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC


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It was a typical Fourth of July in South Gate Park. Cumbia and Mexican norteño music blared from boom boxes and carne asada sizzled on grills as families celebrated around picnic tables, feasting and waiting for the big fireworks show that evening.

A few miles up the 710 Freeway in Monterey Park, a mix of mostly Asian American and Latino families staked out spots on the grass at Barnes Park to watch the fireworks there.

In Southern California's immigrant enclaves, the Fourth takes on many forms and flavors. And for many of those celebrating as adopted Americans, the holiday has a special meaning.

“Thank God that we are in this country, that has received us with open arms," said Tony Reynoso, 60, as he lounged on a folding chair in South Gate, a city that is 95 percent Latino and about 44 percent foreign-born.

Reynoso arrived in 1973 from Mexico. In his earlier years here, Reynoso lived and raised his family in nearby Lynwood. He lives in Gardena now, but he and his grown children enjoy coming back to the old neighborhood for the Fourth.

"This is a holiday that we celebrate with our families," Reynoso said, in Spanish. "And because this is our country now, we want to celebrate its independence."

In Monterey Park, a city that's 67 percent Asian and more than 50 percent foreign-born, Edward Gonda camped out on the grass with his wife and kids, waiting for the fireworks to start once it got dark.

Gonda, 43, was born in the Philippines. As a kid there, he said, his family wasn't terribly aware of the Fourth of July. Here, they are - very much so.

"What the Fourth means for us is more opportunity for my family," said Gonda, who came from his home in Koreatown to celebrate in Monterey Park. "It means to me a better future for my kids."

Those who were raised in the U.S. by immigrant parents talked about family Fourth of July traditions, as celebrated in bicultural immigrant families.

Javier Velasquez, 43, whose parents were born in Mexico, said he'd been coming to South Gate Park for the holiday with his family for 13 years. He and his wife manned the grill while his mother-in-law, who was born in Mexico, played with their children. The kids donned red-white-and-blue face paint. Velasquez said he loves coming here for the Fourth.

“It’s a melting pot of North America, South America, and everything in between," Velasquez said, as he tended to carne asada and tortillas on the grill.

Back at the Reynoso camp, Tony Reynoso's daughter Julie, 32, said she enjoyed the multicultural vibe.

"It feels good to listen to music that you're used to listening to, from our parents, and celebrating something that is from here, from this country," she said.