This past weekend (Saturday, February 27), Dominicans in the Dominican Republic and all over the world celebrated the 172nd anniversary of the country's independence. This truly hits home for me, as I stand today as a proud Dominican. It is something that is in my blood. It is a part of me that defines where I came from and who I am today. Dominicans in the U.S. have come a long way and we have so much to be proud of...besides American baseball!
I'll share this statement from the White House that I read this morning:
"On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of the Dominican Republic on your 172 years of independence. Dominican-Americans are the fifth-largest Hispanic group in the United States, and our people-to-people ties grow stronger every year." -- Secretary of State John Kerry
172 years! That's real. I'm very appreciative of this type of recognition, and I hope that we as one people continue to grow, achieve great things and serve as role models for our youth.
I remember as a kid, growing up in New York City, heading to downtown Manhattan with Mom and other family members to watch the Dominican Day Parade year after year. Those were some great memories. It was the one time of year that NYC honored us Dominicans, right in the heart of Manhattan, parading down Avenue of the Americas. I mean, we would shut down Manhattan (for just a few hours) all in celebration. It's was crazy and lots of fun. And it was a big deal for my family. We would look forward to this day months in advance and make it an all-day event. I really believe that this parade, along with other Dominican festivities, contributed and helped shaped the cultural palette of New York City. It also helped mold some of its most prominent neighborhoods, like Washington Heights. Shouts to all my people out in The Heights - Dominican Power! The Heights is where all the majority of Dominicans be at. Dominicans have become one of the largest Latino groups in New York; times have changed and we'e evolved into a more positive community.
This past weekend had me thinking...being a Dominican in the NBA, what does this mean to me? Quite simply, it is such an outpouring of pride. What my parents and their parents worked so hard for; coming into this country with an American dream. I'm living proof of their commitment and support. It is a real honor and privilege to call myself a "Dominican in the NBA." And with this great honor comes great responsibility. I hope to set, and continue to set, an example for this generation and the generations to come. Shouts to the young fellows, Karl Towns and Luis Montero. I'm really proud of you guys. And shouts to my other brothers, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia - we all come from the same era. Same goes with Luis Flores that's my guy. And much love to guys like the legend Felipe Lopez and pioneers like Tito Horford, who all helped pave the way. Honestly, without them, I would not have the same NBA goals or ambitions. Watching them play in the NBA gave a kid like me from Queens hope. I would always tell myself, "If they can do it, why can't I?"
FIBA Americas Puerto Rico 2009 - Dominican National Basketball Team
I'll wrap this up and leave you with this: Que viva Quisqueya y que viva la Republica Dominicana! Te amo, mi país.
Happy belated Dominican Independence Day,
Charlie Villanueva #DominicanHeritageMonth
PS. As a Dominican-American, I respect my country. I live in the United States of America, a country built on immigrant dreams, by the very nature of the principles upon which it was founded. We the people embrace those who come to this country, regardless of race, providing their work ethic in search of the promise and opportunity. We are one nation of many people...lets keep it that way. I'm hoping Donald Trump reads this :)