LA River School

Immigration & the American dream

My mother, Marcela Chavez, is a 43-year-old woman who works as a sales clerk at Super King market. She came to the United States on Nov. 8, 1998, after her husband Juan, my father did, both from Michoacan, Mexico.

Marcela came to the U.S. with her son Lalo when he was 6-years-old. Lalo is now 24 and a brother to Marcela’s two other kids — Oswaldo, 12, and me, Natalia, 17. I interviewed my mother specifically on a topic that has and continues to be very serious and controversial to many people in the U.S.: Immigration.

marcela 4 Immigration & the American dream
Photo courtesy of Marcela

Marcela found the U.S. to be a safer home rather than her own hometown.

“I came here for a better lifestyle for both me and my family, I was struggling as for my husband, but at least in the U.S. we have good paying jobs and food on the table,” she said.

She mentioned how horrible the economy was and how the jobs were not economically sustainable.

“The conditions here do not compare at all to the conditions we were living in Mexico,” she said.

With poverty increasing over the years, they never imagined living a happy stable life. She mentions how moving to the U.S. made it possible for her to help her family in Michoacan with some of their struggles in Mexico like, paying rent, buying food, home necessities, hygiene, and much more.

“México es pobre de economía, pero rico de corazon,” she said. — Mexico is poor from the economy but rich at heart.

This is something I believe many can relate to.

Every time someone talks to me about Mexico, some of the many good things I hear about its culture are the people, the tradition, traditional values, community, celebrations and of course, the food.

“I believe that all those things people say about Mexico should represent Mexico more than anything. We may not be known for being wealthy but we do work ourselves up from anything that tries to bring us down and that is way more powerful than money,” she said. 

I asked what a “better life” looks like to her, and Marcela spoke of stability and well-being.

“A better life to me is, having a job, having a place to live, helping family out in any way possible, and health,” she said.

My mother talks about how she always sends money to her family in Michoacan, Mexico as a way to thank them for everything they have done for her growing up and getting to where she is today. They continue to support her from a distance.

The American Dream is defined as, a national ethos illustrated to refer to the U.S., portraying it as an opportunity for freedom, prosperity and success. I asked Marcela if she believes in the U.S., and she said yes.

“I believe in the American Dream because I see many immigrants striving forward as well as their families for greatness, working, helping their loved ones in Mexico, and for my kids to pursue their dreams,” she said.

Having this conversation with my mom made me wonder if she missed anything from Mexico. She says how much she misses Mexico and everything about it. She misses being able to hug her family, see the neighbors greet each other no matter who they are, everyone willing to help no matter what the case is, and of course the food.

marcela 3 Immigration & the American dream
Photo courtesy of Marcela

Marcela mentioned how the Mexican food over here doesn’t compare at all to how the food tastes in Mexico. It is best described as the rich flavor that makes your tastebuds tingle.

A specific dish my mom loves is corundas. Corundas is a Mexican food, similar to tamales but wrapped in a long green corn plant leaf, and folded making a triangular shape. Unlike tamales, they are usually made using corn flour, salt, sour cream and water. It is a common food in the state of Michoacan.

Marcela often reflects on her family and the tough choices she has had to make throughout her life.

“Although we do get more chances and possibilities here, it would be nice if we could have a job and your whole family to come home too,” she said. “That should be the American dream.”

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