We were somewhere around Jacksonville, the car devouring every mile we passed. Lines of trees formed around us vanishing as soon as they appeared, making way for more trees and grasslands. The heat was hot. The ground wasn’t dry but the air was, full of sound. I could faintly hear the voices of my friends singing aloud the song coming out of the stereo. All I could think was, “this is life.” Life on the road, going to places unknown, excited for the world we were about to see. This was us living the American Dream.
We were not getting younger but we’re going as far as we could. I had a hand outside the window, feeling the wind crashing down the windshield. I didn’t know the songs, so I just thought to myself all the while. One of my main interests while I was in the US was trying to get a better picture of the American Dream. What is that? Literature, history, pop culture, even politics are filled with references to it. As a foreigner, I could only grasp and interpret what it might be. It was only after this trip that I got a better understanding of what exactly the American Dream is.
A Deeper Look
This is the place where you can be everything you want. This is the place where you can rent a car with your friends, hit the road and have the time of your life. Here, you can grow to be recognized, where you can exploit your skills and polish them. This is the land of opportunity. In a world where people live and die without being able to achieve something… having a real opportunity cannot be taken for granted. Hard work, determination, courage. All of these are worthy of praise. Is it enough, though?
The world we live in swears that’s all it takes to be someone – to be successful. But in truth, it is not enough. We could work hard and be disciplined in any other place around the world. So, what is different about America? Hard to say. But what’s clear to me is that the American dream is more important to the Latin community than to US citizens. They are all fed up with the American Dream. They call it an illusion – a ploy developed by capitalism. And maybe it is. However, that doesn’t mean that that’s all it actually is.
A Neighbor’s Dream
It is special to me to talk about this topic, especially as a Latin American – as a Mexican. We are neighbors to the “Land of the free.” Everything they dream, we dream. Scientifically, culturally, and technologically speaking, Mexico constantly tries to imitate what works for America. We gaze into their lifestyle and we want what we see. Brands, music, ideologies – our country sells us those same things. And we crave them! Us Mexicans have a soft spot for the foreigner and their stuff. We tend to believe that the things are better and more perfectly manufactured if they were made in another country, especially if it was made by the United States. Everything we like about other countries, we adopt. We have a once-a-year music festival called Live Latin. It is ironic how there’s not a single true Latin American band that plays for the festival anymore.
This isn’t nearly enough to portray what I’m trying to say: many people here have gone to the US. Most of them have gone outside the law, without a visa, risking the frontier and the brave river in between our countries. Why? Because of the American Dream. They risk it because of the American Dream and the pressing necessity of providing for your loved ones. The land of opportunity shines brightly, especially when compared to the reality of outcasted communities living in what Americans see as unimaginable poverty. To us, the American Dream is real. Or at least, we want it to be.
A Stark Reality
Many people believe that there are no opportunities here; they don’t believe that our government can help us achieve happiness, or can help develop our projects and endeavors. A Mexican invented the colorized TV. But the invention is registered as American. Even though the inventor was Mexican, he never got the support and the money to develop his idea in Mexico. However, the Americans provided the support needed to fund such a large and ambitious project. America is a land that believes and trusts in its people. They don’t try to trip them up so their citizens fall, as we may think about our government in Mexico. Therefore, it was a little surprised when I couldn’t find any positive input about the American Dream from my fellow compatriots.
They likely had forgotten about our fellow compatriots working hard on the other side of the border. They must have forgotten how they were willing to live alone and leave their family in Mexico, just so they can send them a few dollars. A single dollar is worth many pesos. An American friend of mine – a friend who did not believe in the American Dream – was genuinely surprised when I told him that one could afford a decent apartment in a great neighborhood in the city for around $250 a month. Maybe the whole idea of the American Dream has paled for the Americans. However, for us Latin Americans and Spanish-speaking Americans, the dream is real.
A Challenge in Hope
Knowing all of this, I salute with deep respect and admiration all the people living in the United States as foreigners. I salute people who have gathered from all over the world – people who were adventurous and courageous enough to leave their countries behind and try to make a living in this great, amazing, and chaotic country. You may love or hate the US. However, it won’t let you feel indifferent about it.
The American Dream was born amidst the words of the Declaration of Independence. “We embrace these truths as self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” And so our purpose is to be happy. We believe the state has the innate duty to provide the means for us to achieve it. Embrace our liberty, the greatest gift we own as humans, so that we can carry our nests full of dreams and as we hope for each of them to hatch.