12 Stories on How El American Dream Is Not Given But Earned
There is a teaching in the Kabbalah (yes, that thing that Madonna did in the 00’s) that says that you only value something when you have worked hard for it.
And it’s true. Remember that first toy you bought with your own money, or the feeling of getting the keys to your first car?
For us, a car is not just a vehicle to take us from point A to B. A car means all the late hours working, all the sweat, all the time away from those we love that has finally payed off.
These are the stories of 12 latinos that prove that it’s not about the thing itself, but all the effort that it took us to make it ours:
1. On sacrifices
If you are a bookworm, you have probably already heard of Richard Blanco. Blanco was the youngest poet to read a poem at a president’s inauguration. In 2013, this young Latino gay poet was chosen by Obama to write “One Today” for this occasion.
Blanco was born in Spain but grew up among his Cuban family in Miami.
In his poem, he told the story of how his mom rang-up groceries for twenty years so he could write this poem or how his dad cut sugar cane so he and his brother could have books and shoes.
His last book, ‘The Prince of los Cocuyos’, talks about growing up in the Miami Cuban community and dreaming of eating Fruit Loops and Easy Cheese like all the American kids. At the same time, he struggled with this sexual orientation in a family that always asked him to be more masculine.
2. On the perfect gift
Diego Luna, yes, Star Wars Diego Luna, told a story on an interview with Ellen about how he dreamed of having one of those power wheels cars when he was little. His dad could not afford it, so he would tell Diego that they did not sell them in Mexico.
Diego Luna would complain because he had seen them in the park and it was his dream to drive one too but it never happened.
So, when Diego’s son was born he bought him one to fulfill his long time dream. He said that his toddler didn’t really get the present but we guess it doesn’t matter, it made Diego happy and that was the idea.
3. On Abuela’s recipe
For Latinos, a recipe is not just a series of steps and ingredients to cook something. A recipe is tradition, is family history.
My grandma made a kick-ass salsa verde. Not just any salsa verde, more like a go-up-to-heaven-and-shake-hands-with-Jesus kind of salsa verde.
But, like any good abuela, she would always skip something when giving you the recipe. Even though we tried to spy on her or try to experiment with stuff at home, we never managed to get it right.
So, when she passed away along with the secret of the salsa, we honestly felt that a part of the family history had vanished.
That is, until my mom discovered that at the bottom of her knitting basket, she had left a tiny note in a wrinkled piece of paper. The kind of piece of paper that you would just throw away if you found in your pocket.
But my mom had a hunch and opened the little paper piece only to discover a message that said: “Simmer on low for at least 45 minutes and add squeeze half a lemon at the end.”
I think she fell on her knees when she found it, I know I did.
My grandma knew she could not take this to the grave, it was family history and she had to pass it on. Up to this day my mom and I are the recipe keepers and we don’t disclose the full ingredients list or process to anyone. When we die, we shall pass it on for someone else to keep the tradition alive.
4. On the dream of college
When you think about all the sacrifices people do to attend college, it rarely crosses your mind that there are some stories out there that prove that the dream of a college education is real.
Dustin is a third generation American; his grandpa was one of the few Latinos to fight in the Battle of Bulge and the invasion of Normandy with the U.S. Army.
Dustin’s dad wanted to pursue a higher education to have a better life. Knowing that he would need a lot money to be able to study, he enlisted in the Air Force and did a tour in Vietnam. When he came back, he used all of his G.I. money to pay for his college education.
5. On the piece of land
Many people who migrated to this country when they were young still have the dream of sometime returning to their home country and retiring there. You probably have heard this from your abuelos who long for the day they can go back to their pueblo and die with their people.
Ana Lucia’s dad also came to Chicago when he was 17. Together with her grandpa, they worked in restaurants and other jobs before returning to Jalisco; where they used all the money they had made to buy a piece of land.
Due to the situation in Mexico, her dad eventually came back to the U.S. and got his papers on the 1986 IRCA Amnesty. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree, met his wife and had two children.
He still has the dream of someday going back to Jalisco and building his house in the piece of land he bought back when he was 19. The dream of finally building the house he has always dreamed of.
6. On graduating on the same day as your dad
Jessica’s parents met in the U.S. after migrating from El Salvador and Colombia. Her mom had a high school diploma and worked in the hotel industry until she became a hotel manager.
Her dad was born in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Bogotá. When he came here he worked mostly in construction but he always had the dream of going to school and getting his bachelor’s degree.
Her dad made his dream come true and even though he did not go to college when he was young, he successfully graduated on the same day as his daughter.
7. On Nintendo
Back in the mid 80’s, if you did not have a Nintendo you were basically no one. All my friends in school had them, except me. I was desperate, so I asked my uncle if I could help him wash cars at his car shop so that customers could get their cars super clean when they came to pick them up. He said yes, so every Saturday I would go up to his garage and wash one or two cars. It took me almost a year to save $100, just enough to go buy my console.
So finally, a year later I went to the store and got it. The lady at the register almost cried when she saw me pull out all this one dollar bills from my bag; I am pretty sure I cried too.
I finally had it! By this point, of course, all my friends had finished Mario Bros and had moved on to Gameboys. Me, I was still pretty psyched to have a Nintendo console at home and was dedicating all my afternoons and weekends to it.
I never got to meet the Princess nor finish the game, but boy did I enjoy every second I spent with that console! I can assure you that no other kid on the planet has loved it more.
Years later my Nintendo and I had to say goodbye. I almost fell like Andy in Toy Story 3 when he gives his toys away but good things must come to an end; we did have some amazing years together.
8. On deportation
Diane Guerrero, the star of OITNB and Jane the Virgin, had to survive one of the biggest fears a child of undocumented parents has. Her parents were deported when she was only 14. She came back home one night and they were gone, dinner was still on the stove.
Guerrero was devastated and had to find a way to stay alive despite all the pain of being away from her folks, so she decided to apply for art school.
Art was her way of coping. Art gave her an escape that she needed to overcome depression and to be able to focus in getting over the pain, to be able to do something with her future. And, even though sometimes she had to skip class because she couldn’t pay for them, she found a way. Now she is sharing her story and trying to change the system to spare other kids from this horrific situation.
If you want to know more about her story, her book ‘In The Country We Love’ tells all about her life and her new ideas to reform the immigration system.
9. On art
Carmen Lomas Garza is a Chicana artist who grew up in Texas. Her great-grandfather walked from Michoacán, México to Texas many generations ago to work as a cowboy at a ranch.
Her mom had always liked to paint but she was never able to do it as a career. Still, she taught her daughters to follow their dreams and Carmen eventually became a famous painter and one of the most important artists of the Chicano movement.
If it hadn’t been for the support of her parents, Carmen would have never started painting and the world would’ve never seen her amazing work.
Her parents sacrificed their dreams to make Carmen’s come true. Did your parents do the same for you?
10. On the dream of buying a house
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who served with president Obama, Julian Castro, once told the story about how his abuela never got to own a house. “She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own” and still, this abuela was able to send her daughter to college. This daughter would become Castro’s mom and in his own words “ (she) fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone”.
11. On the tools for learning
Junot Diaz, the Pulitzer Award Winner author, shared on his book “This Is How You Lose Her” the story of how his famous character “Yunior” learned English when he arrived in the U.S.
Although most of what happens to Yunior is fiction, the character is based on Diaz’s experiences after he migrated to New Jersey from the Dominican Republic when he was only 6 years old.
Yunior, as many kids who come to this country when they are little, did not speak a word of English. His mom wanted them to learn it fast so they would sit in front of the TV for hours and hours.
Forget about books or tutors, TV is for many, the only way to learn English.
12. On waiting
For many students, books are a commodity that can just be ordered on Amazon and if you have Prime you can sometimes have them the same day.
But, for many Latino kids in school books are a luxury. If they need one, they need to go to the library to borrow one, bring it back, borrow it again and sometimes wait for the book to be back from some other student who needed it too.
So, if you own a book you don’t use anymore donate it to your local library or school. Some kids need it, and their parents or their family have other more urgent matters to use their money for.
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