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For U.S. immigrants, Independence Day has special meaning


Top left, clockwise: Kannika Carley, Thailand; Gilberto Barreto, Mexico; Rachit Raval, India; John Musa, Yemen.

Top left, clockwise: Kannika Carley, Thailand; Gilberto Barreto, Mexico; Rachit Raval, India; John Musa, Yemen. Photo by: Birney Imes/Dispatch Staff


Andrew Hazzard/Dispatch Staff



For some residents of Columbus, a question about Independence Day prompts a question of their own: Which one? 


On Friday, Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. For Rachit Raval, that goes double. 


Raval operates the Tandoori Oven Indian Restaurant in Columbus. As a U.S. citizen who immigrated from India, the break from British rule has special significance. 


There is July 4th, but there is also Aug. 15, 1947, the year India won its independence from the United Kingdom. 


"There (in India) we feel like it just happened," Raval said.  


The restaurant will be closed for the Fourth of July. Raval intends to celebrate with family, friends and restaurant staff much like the rest of the nation--gathering for friendship and food. Although his country of origin and his new home both celebrate independence from Great Britain, Raval said that due to India's rigid caste system the freedom here is easier to feel. He said that being a recent citizen, he feels a special connection to the day.  


"It is a lot more independent here," Raval said. "More opportunity." 


Adel "John" Musa also hails from a country that also celebrates independence from Great Britain -- Yemen, which gained its independence from British rule in 1967. Musa owns United Deli, a popular gas station and deli located at the intersection of Gardner Boulevard and Highway 50.  


Musa became a U.S. citizen in 1998, and he said that he enjoys bringing his children to see fireworks on the Fourth of July.  


"It's close to my heart as a citizen of this place," said Musa. 


Gilberto Barreto has lived in the United States for 25 years. He came from Michoacan, Mexico, and works at Mi Toro Mexican restaurant in Columbus.  


His native Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain on Sept. 16. Mexico's independence came in 1810. Celebrations in Mexico are very similar to those found in the U.S., he said.  


It is traditionally a day of family and friends, good food and drink, fireworks and music.  


"I think we're more noisy," Barreto said with a laugh. 


American Independence Day has taken a more significant meaning for Barreto since gaining his U.S. citizenship.  


"I never thought that way before, but you swear in front of the flag and it's special," Barreto said.  


Thai immigrant Kannika Carley cooks specialties from her homeland at the Thai by Thai restaurant in Columbus. Although there is no Independence Day celebrated in her native Thailand, Carley said that Labor Day celebrations in Thailand have a similar feel to Independence Day here.  


Carley has been here eight years and is married to an American. She is a citizen of this country and said she intends to celebrate with family and food.  


"I feel like I'm home," Carley said.




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