Robin van Persie took a Superman-esque dive, propelling the ball 30-plus meters in the air with a quick movement of his head, and the ball went over the goalie’s extended arms and under the crossbar into the goal. The room erupted, and over 200 hundred people clad in orange let out a joyous scream in unison, while another 50 people, wearing white and a different shade of orange, let out an exasperated gasp. Everyone in the room was in shock, and we all realized that we had shared a moment we would never forget. The Netherlands had just tied the game with Spain in the 2014 World Cup, and you would have never guessed where we were, based on what was happening.
Diversity and New York are one and the same. New York’s diversity is what makes it New York, and unlike anywhere else in the U.S., a city founded by, and made up of, immigrants.
Then again, where else in the world would you have bars filled with supporters of all nations, congregating to celebrate the world’s true unifying game? We were not in Spain or the Netherlands or even Europe, for that matter. We were in New York City!
The World Cup took place in Brazil, and the 800+ languages spoken in New York City all have one word in common: Goooal! In all five boroughs people gethered in bars and living rooms to root for their countries or the countries of their ancestors. For me, it’s a reminder of the humble beginnings of New York’s cultural diversity.
When the Dutch West India Company settled lower Manhattan in 1624, little did it know that it would be sowing the seeds for what would become the biggest immigrant destination in the world, over the course of almost four hundred years.
The best-known and largest influx of immigrants occurred between 1892 and 1934 in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, on nearby Ellis Island. It served as the first stop for transatlantic steamers filled with the poor, tired, huddled masses seeking refuge from the “ancient lands and storied pomp,” of Europe – as Emma Lazarus wrote in her famous poem from 1882, “The New Colossus.”
Over 12 million immigrants made it to Ellis Island in the 42 years it functioned as an immigration center. It is estimated that 33% of Americans can trace their ancestry back to Ellis Island.
I hope the spirit of the World Cup is contagious. I enjoyed watching all the matches, and to witnessing – as I do everyday – the diverse collection of people that make New York City what it is today.
SMA Law Firm
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