It’s been a while since I spent the 14th of July in France. This is our National Day. Parisians stormed La Bastille, in 1789, and it became a highly symbolic event in the calendar of the French Revolution.
As a child, we’d often stay up late to watch the fireworks and sometimes dance at the balls, if we happened to be holidaying in some village. As I mentioned this to my daughters, the other day, the older one decided she wanted to see the fireworks and to dance as well. Any excuse to stay up late, really. I didn’t know where the fireworks would happen, but I found out, and at 9 PM, I packed the kids into the car and drove the 7 kms to the town of Apt. There was quite a crowd in the big square where we watched the sprays of colors light up the sky. I was so happy to hear the girls going “Ho!” and “W0w!” and to share that very French moment with them. My patriotic bursts are rare enough for me to be able to boast about them, I think.
After the fireworks, a band started playing Seventies Rock, and we stayed a little while. My older daughter was obviously fascinated, more by the action than the music, I think, as it wasn’t very good at all, quite frankly. But the little one was getting tired, and I suggested we go. We started walking in the direction of our parking space, but upon crossing a street, I heard Latin music, and immediately, my ears pricked up. A small band was playing in front of a pub. There were tables outside, and the area was packed (the crowd was almost as thick as in the big square.) We stopped and listened to the band who played Cumbia, from Colombia, and it felt wonderful to hear good music, and to see the people around us appreciate it and dance to it.
Why do I report this here? Well, it just stroke me as interesting that on such a “French” day, people gathered spontaneously around musicians from a distant country, singing in another language, playing different rhythms. It made me smile, and it made me happy. It may not be much, but somehow, I find it revealing. I do not believe such a thing would have been possible when I was a child. Not because people would not have appreciated or enjoyed the music, but because the opening, the opportunity, simply weren’t there. Now, it seems almost natural. So, that was our 14th of July in France. Lovely fireworks, and then, the joyous rhythms of La Cumbia. A multicultural moment, just the way I love it.