The Night African Wine Trumped Tequila

Forbes Africa
Published 6 years ago
The Night African Wine Trumped Tequila

It was a usual Friday evening on July 1; I had just knocked off at work. Jersey City, in New York, was covered with American flags of all sizes, flying from car roofs, apartments and the front gardens of homes. Barely in sight in the morning, the red, white and blue flags suddenly mushroomed in my host city.

In the corridors of Forbes’ office, I overheard colleagues talking about their grand plans for the coming Independence Day long weekend – it meant nothing to me as a South African, I was just excited for the day off on Monday. I don’t hate my job, it’s just in a South African’s DNA to halt the capitalist machinery.

The South African public holiday on April 27, which marks the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, doesn’t have much significance to me nor my friends. We are happy to be duty free, unlike the careerist politicians who never miss the opportunity to sell empty dreams at rallies. While the voting fodder flocks into stadiums for a political party’s t-shirt or a small food pack, we catch up on household chores and a little fun later in the day. In the 22 years of this so-called freedom, I haven’t witnessed anything like the patriotism of the Americans.

Since 1776, without fail, over 300 million Americans still commemorate the Fourth of July, with pomp. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and the British Empire lost control of the 13 colonies that now make up part of the United States (US). Now, many countries were once colonized by the British Empire, but none come as close to celebrating their independence as the US. Sadly, independence didn’t apply to everyone; the US continued exploiting African slaves for a century. The country had now elevated itself to the colonizer until 1865, when slavery was abolished. Even this didn’t put an end to the lynching of African Americans. As a matter of fact, the brutality experienced by blacks is still pervasive today.

The longevity of the US independence can be attributed to John Adams, the lawyer and politician who would become president. While pleading with the larcenous British Empire, Adams penned a letter to his wife, Abigail, expressing his wish for independence.

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more,” wrote Adams.

To this day, his wish lives on, Americans commemorate the day with barbeques, parades, and fireworks.

As I drew near to my apartment on that hot Friday’s night, looking forward to sundowners at Guillo’s Place, the local Mexican bar, there was a strange activity in the yard. My neighbors were out on the stoep having drinks.

They warmly invited me to their small soiree, but the sudden friendliness took me by surprise. I waited for two months to be invited for tea, but I was always the invisible African. I went up to my studio to grab the dusty bottle of South African dry red that was on top of my fridge.

From then, the long weekend was taken care of, with copious food and drink consumed, like the millions of other Americans. As America is going to the polls later this year, it was inevitable that politics was discussed. Despite voting in the New Jersey primaries, none of my new acquaintances were happy with Hilary Clinton nor Donald Trump. Who cares? At least they know who they are voting for. I am envious of their freedom to choose who can stand for president. I don’t see that happening in my homeland.

The long weekend culminated to the mother of all parties at 9PM on Monday. Even the rain couldn’t put a damper on the revellers that had gathered on Coles Street, in downtown Jersey City, nor the fireworks on the other side of the Hudson River in Manhattan.

Thanks to my neighbors, I didn’t miss Guillo’s tequila.