People often confuse the meanings of the words “citizen” — referring to official membership in a governed country — and “resident” — which simply means a person who lives in a particular place.
One would hope such an error in vocabulary is all that’s behind the outcry over Carla Braga’s crowning as Miss 4th of July, and that there’s not a more nefarious motivation.
The 20-year-old Miss Braga competed in and won the beauty and talent pageant on May 17. Since, she has fulfilled all duties of the crown bearer, attending public appearances, greeting the public and helping raise funds for future 4th of July celebrations. She has been a model representative of the town about whom no one has publicly expressed any issue.
Until, that is, she became an American citizen.
Born and raised in the Azores, Miss Braga moved to Bristol with her parents five years ago. On Monday, she completed the five-year-long journey that is becoming an official American citizen, taking the oath of citizenship at Barrington Public Library along with her brother and 17 others. East Bay Newspapers was there to cover the event, and since a local celebrity was among the newest Americans, we focused part of the story on her, and promoted it on social media.
Then the Facebook commenters came out. Some chose to thinly veil their attacks on her character — writing they were “confused” or that their “mind is blown” that a woman who was not yet an official American citizen could hold the Miss 4th title — while others wore their bigotry directly on their sleeves.
Thankfully, the Bristol 4th of July Committee doesn’t share such ignorance. The committee requires pageant contestants to be Bristol residents, simply meaning they must live within the town’s borders. Miss Braga has lived in town for five years, graduated from Mt. Hope High School and considers Bristol her home. Contrary to some commenters’ pettiness, she is no less a Bristolian than someone who was born in town, and was therefore equally qualified to compete as anyone else.
There’s a reason naturalization ceremonies tend to be scheduled around the 4th of July, when we celebrate all that’s great about being an American — freedom, democracy, diversity, acceptance. Miss 4th of July represents those ideals. Who better to embody the spirit of all that is American than one who chose to become an American? Clearly, some could learn from her example.