Nuestro Sueno (Our Dream)

Yo soy (I am) Mexican-American.

Two languages. Two lives. Two cultures. Two identities.

A border between two distinct cultures. 

Yo soy el Sueño Americano (I am the American Dream). My mother migrated to the United States knowing that life in her small pueblo in Mexico was not suitable to raise a prosperous family. With only a fifth grade education, no money, and a suitcase filled with her vision of the American Dream: a house, financial stability, and providing a better life for my family, she made the painful journey to America. She left everything behind, but as she looked forward, she knew she was giving her children the opportunity for a better life. I am the legacy that stems from a courageous woman, like  millions of other  migrant women fighting for their families even though the odds are stacked against them.

As a child, I was told by my teachers that school was not for me. That I would never  succeed because I took too long to read a paragraph and had to use my fingers for multiplication in the third grade. I carried this label like an albatross for three years. Three years during which I believed what my teachers told me and did not think I could escape that stigma. 

At age 8, I enrolled in a Catholic school hoping it would provide a better education than my local elementary school. Coming from a single parent household, we were not the normal family. While my classmates were dropped off at the gate with a kiss on their forehead from both their mother and father, I was dropped off at the corner and had to walk the rest of the way because that extra time allowed my mother to get to her job faster. When my mother looked over my homework, she was unable to help because she did not know how to do simple arithmetic. I was not the same as my peers because my mother cleaned the offices their parents worked in. 

By the sixth grade, I was determined to change that. I transferred to my local charter school and found a different culture. These families mirrored my family, the teachers were open to helping me catch up, and helped me envision myself flourishing in the classroom. I found myself going to office hours every day, taking notes, and being curious to comprehend. I was slowly becoming the student I always knew I could be. I ended my first quarter of sixth grade with a 3.8 GPA, and as my name was shouted for the High Honor Roll List, I knew it was not the last time my mom was going to hear my name.

In seventh grade, things did not change. Essay after essay, A after A, my drive and dedication didn’t waver. I worked until I was able to walk on the stage at my graduation -- something my mother never did. As I got the chance to learn, I developed the skills needed to be a successful student. After three years of this academic trajectory, I was finally able to hear my name called to walk the stage and witness a never before seen smile on my mother's face. At that moment, I realized that I was capable of more than I had been told. I was tired of watching my friends drawn to gangs, overdoses at school, and my mother coming home with back pain from cleaning bathrooms all day. I refused to continue this course. Coming from a community where poverty and violence are an unfortunate reality, I needed to become my own change-agent. Even though my streets are filled with sirens, gunshots, thieves, and drug addicts, these circumstances are not setbacks, but rather the catalyst to break boundaries. My community has inspired me to realize my American Dream. 

Fortunately, I have the dedication, desire, and grit in my blood. My work ethic was passed down through my mother from the fields in Jalisco to the streets of Inglewood. Once I realized that my mother saw in me the opportunity she never had, I cemented my aspiration to further my education. As a current activist, future lawyer, and aspiring elected official, I have made it my mission to transform the place I call home into a better place than I found it.

Yet, as I tell my story of improving my life and I look outside my small window of opportunity, I see the enduring myth El Sueño Americano has become. Although my mother and I are successfully pursuing our American Dream, that story does not have a happy ending for everyone. The lack of support and the mistreatment my people receive is not right. The crippling student debt, ongoing racial inequality, housing disparities, and income gaps threaten the American Dream. Standing in South Los Angeles, I live these injustices when ICE yet again separates another innocent family, destroying the dreams and potential of another young child. I live this when I, an American born citizen, am told I am not American enough. Now I challenge the antiquated American Dream and reimagine the modern Dream to be one of perseverance, fulfillment, and passion. 

 I am my mother's American Dream. Gracias, mama, for the sacrifices you  made for me. From Tecolotlan, Jalisco to the stars that have become my limit, I work every day to ensure your sacrifices are not in vain. Every person gets to define their own Sueño Americano. My American Dream will be achieved when I am able to buy you your own house and watch you enjoy the family to whom you have given everything and owes you everything in return.  

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