Happy Independence Day(s)!

Independence Day marks the mid-point of an American summer bookended by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Whether your family enjoys a clambake on the beach or hot dogs fresh off the grill, the Fourth of July really is the quintessential American holiday …And one that creates many happy memories.

But while dreaming of crisp watermelon and homemade ice cream, we started wondering how sponsored children observed their countries’ independence. When do they celebrate? What special foods do they eat? What do they do differently?

Thanks to the help of our communications coordinators  and sponsored children the world over  we’ve created this special Independence Day scrapbook to share with you.

"Dominican Republic Flag," ©2008 by Mihnea Stanciu, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Dominican Republic
February 27

The Dominican Republic celebrates its independence on February 27. The Dominican War of Independence ended and the DR separated from Haiti in 1844. Actual independence came 23 years after the island freed itself from Spain.

Freedom fighters called “The Trinity Group” wore costumes while rebelling against the Haitian government during the war. In remembrance of that, independence day celebrations in the Dominican Republic are combined with Carnivale and include many colorful costumes.

June 12

Independence Day is complicated in the Philippines. From 1898-1946, when the country was controlled by the United States, it celebrated the American Fourth of July! But, it was actually on June 12, 1898, that the Philippines declared independence from Spanish colonial rule. 

June 12, called Araw ng Kalayaan, is celebrated around the Philippines. Most offices, schools and government buildings are closed, but students and government officials often participate in parades. These sponsored children in Legazpi have fun waving their country’s flag. 

"Washington D.C. Fireworks," ©2005 by William Mitchell, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

United States
July 4

Of all the independence day stories, you are probably the most familiar with the United States’ history. The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

What you might not know is that the American Revolutionary War started a year earlier in 1775 … and would last until 1781! The U.S. Constitution wasn’t signed until 1788, and George Washington didn’t even become president until 1789 … 14 years after the war began.

Observance in the U.S. can easily be summed up by fireworks, barbeques and family reunions! Traditionally, families come together to enjoy treats like grilled hot dogs and hamburgers  just like this sponsored boy from Children International-UALR is doing.

When evening comes, many people will enjoy a public fireworks display or set off some fountains and sparklers in their backyards.

July 20

Colombia recognizes July 20 as its independence day. It was on this day in 1810 that the country began its long nine-year fight for freedom from Spain. The fight came to an end when, led by Simon Bolivar, Colombians won the decisive Battle of Boyacá in 1819. 

On July 20, Colombian families have the custom of placing their country’s flag on the outside of their homes. Many enjoy or participate in folk dancing or parades, like these sponsored children from Cartagena. 

August 10

The fight for Ecuadorian independence began in Quito on August 10, 1809, with “el primer grito de la independencia” or “the first cry for independence.” The first city to rise up against the Spanish Empire, Quito earned the nickname “Luz de America”  the Light of America.

Although it was the first to revolt, Quito wasn’t fully independent from Spain until 1822. Ecuador, as a separate country, began in 1830.

Ecuadorians enjoy concerts, parades, art exhibitions and a “party on every corner” on their independence day. Others, like these sponsored children, participate in dancing exhibitions. 

August 15

At midnight on August 15, 1947, India gained its independence from the British. The end of colonial rule was aided by the use of a protest method called “non-violent non-cooperation” made famous by Mahatma Gandhi.  

The world’s largest democracy celebrates its independence in a big way. India’s preparations begin the month before, when roads are decorated with flags and buntings, and important buildings are illuminated.

On their independence day, all Indians try to attend a flag-hoisting ceremony, where they sing the national anthem “Jana Gana Mana,” like these sponsored children in Kolkata are doing. The rest of the day is spent flying kites – symbolizing freedom – and enjoying independence day specials at restaurants. A favorite tradition of children is the creation of independence-themed desserts!

September 15

For nearly 300 years, Guatemala was the capital of the “Capitanía General de Guatemala” consisting of the current countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the territory of Chiapas in Mexico.

On September 15, 1821, Guatemala declared its independence from Spain. Although it spent some time as part of the Mexican Empire (1821-1823) and then as part of the Central American Federation (1823-1838), Guatemala emerged as an independent republic in the mid-nineteenth century.

Independence Day in Guatemala is primarily celebrated by schoolchildren. During the weeks leading up to the celebration, Guatemalan children are taught civic values through performances, murals and the presentation of the county’s symbols: the Marimba (national musical instrument); the Monja Blanca (national flower); the Quetzal (national bird); the Ceiba (national tree), and the national coat of arms and the anthem. It’s also a time for school parades!

September 15

Honduras began the nineteenth century as part of the “Capitanía General de Guatemala,” so its struggle for independence is very similar to Guatemala. It, too, became independent from Spain in 1821 and was then part of the Mexican Empire. Starting in 1838, though, Honduras was an independent nation. 

The Honduran Independence Day is band-geek heaven: most celebrations center on marching bands! Children practice for months to perfect their moves and songs. In this photo, sponsored children show off their musical talents.  

September 16

In Mexico, the fight for independence began when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bells of Dolores, the name of his town. “El grito de Dolores” (Cry of Dolores) heard on September 16, 1810, rallied the Mexican people to fight against Spanish colonial leaders. It was a long fight.

It took 11 years to the month for Mexico to free itself from Spain.

Festivities begin at midnight when the President of Mexico gives the official Cry of Independence. Around the country people celebrate by wearing traditional clothes, throwing parades and holding kermés, or fairs, during which traditional foods are eaten and games played. 

October 24

Zambia gained its independence from Britain on October 24, 1964. Prior to independence, the country was called Northern Rhodesia, which was controlled jointly with Southern Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe and Malawi).

Over 60 percent of Zambia’s population was born after independence. For these young people, the day is celebrated with parties, cultural programs that highlight traditional songs and dances, and fun activities like face painting. 

The statue shown here is the “Freedom Statue” located in Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka. It represents an African man breaking the chains of imperialism. 

Photo and reporting assistance by Jesús Almendaréz, Ashten Adamson, Patricia Calderón, Marelvis Campo, Chileshe Chanda, Javier Cárcamo, Carmie Carpio, Pedro Diaz, Azucena Gollaz, Anthony Lorcha, Erenia Mesa, Nivedita Moitra and Eduardo Uy.


You must be logged in to comment. If you have an account, click here to log in.

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. You can restrict cookies through your browser; however that may impair site functionality.