The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

Opinion: Is the “American Dream” still alive?

Aldolfo Cruz
A flag of the United States and the California Republic flies in the air.

My name is Aldolfo Alberto Cruz Urbina, but this isn’t my story. This is the story of people who came into the country with the belief in the American Dream. 

The American Dream is a belief other people that live in other countries have about the U.S. They believe it is the land of opportunity and that there is equality for any person who comes into the country. This can be the driving force for people to leave their country and immigrate to the U.S.. Diverse groups of people have different experiences with the American dream, and my mom did not get the lucky side of the coin and is still fighting for her residency in the country but others luckily have experienced the other side of the coin and have fulfilled their American dream.

My mother Maria was born in San Salvador and spent a lot of her youth there being raised by her father and her stepmother. Maria didn’t have the easiest childhood growing up and getting enough attention from her father was a struggle. Maria’s father was a hard-working man owning a coffee bean business so he wasn’t home all the time but when he was, he wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around most of the time. When Maria would sneak out and stir up some unnecessary trouble, it would usually lead to her getting disciplined the old fashion way.

 If it wasn’t herself causing trouble then it would be her stepmom. My mother’s stepmom wasn’t the nicest person; she would be really harsh physically and vocally for the smallest things that my mom couldn’t do anything about. My mother endured a lot because her dad would always take his wife’s side. This caused some resentment between my mom and her father that would boil over with her lashing out and going out to cause some trouble. My mom decided to date someone behind her father’s back because she wasn’t allowed to date anyone and they had some fun. 

One of those instances led to my older brother being born. His name is Kevin. He’s 26 years old and the oldest son my mom has. My mom’s boyfriend at the time, after finding out he would be a father, left shortly after. The same applies to my sister’s birth with a big change. Her father did leave but didn’t voluntarily leave. My mom was unfortunately raped by my sister’s father and after that had happened people found out what had happened and he was arrested. Separated from my mom and her daughter. That was for the better. 

My sister’s name is Diana. She’s 23 years old and looks identical to my mom. After that whole ordeal, my mom, unfortunately, lost her dad. Even though her dad didn’t show much love to her one and only daughter, she still loved her with all her heart and he was proud of the daughter he raised. My mom was devastated and lost. After that she started to take up some illegal substances to try to forget but it never helped. She gave up all that shortly after realizing she needed to be better not for her but for her daughter. My mom cleaned herself up and decided it was time to leave El Salvador for a better life for her kids. She had two kids who she could barely take care of and she wanted a better life for them. Unfortunately, she couldn’t take them with her because they were too young to go on the long and dangerous journey with her. She had to leave them behind with their grandparents. It broke her heart but it was for the better. She grew up in El Salvador being told about the American dream and how coming to the United States would change her life for the better with just some hard work and ambition.

When you want to immigrate to another country in El Salvador you go to someone called a “coyote,” a person who will illegally transport you to another country for a price. They already have a plan and route already; you just have to show up. My mom’s journey began when she went on 3 buses to make it to Guatemala where she would have to be transported with a lot of other people immigrating to the U.S. but it didn’t end up going that way. After making it to Guatemala, she had to lay low for a bit with someone who helped hide and take care of immigrants. The “coyote” had run out of money so they couldn’t continue the trip until he got more. My mom had to wait about 3 months before continuing her trip but my mom met this wonderful lady who helped her complete the rest of the money she needed to complete the trip. The “coyote” came back to pick up my mom and other immigrants to finally complete the rough journey ahead. 

The halfway point of her journey was making it to a train that would take her to the point they needed to be to cross the border. Being on the train wasn’t the most pleasant thing in the world having to sleep on small pieces of cardboard with no blankets or pillows. No heating, food, or water, and with only minimal supplies you packed in your small bag. My mom had to suffer on that train for about a week or so. The only food she got was from people who were being paid to throw food on the train to feed the immigrants. It was usually very minimal and simple food. She would get only a single tortilla with some cheese not heated. Just cold and hard. 

After being on the train for a while, she got off and continued on foot in the lonely hot desert. As you can imagine, walking in the desert isn’t pleasant at all, especially with no protection from the heat and minimal supplies to keep yourself fed. Their destination was a home near the border where all of the groups of immigrants would meet up with the head of this operation. They were told to wait while other groups crossed the border in the dark night, so it would be harder to be caught by border patrol.

 After a couple of hours of waiting they were rushed to their feet and yelled at to hurry up and get their things. It was finally her time to cross. My mom was told if she did get caught and told who had helped them cross the border she would be found and ‘dealt with’. She was dealing with the cartel so she either kept quiet or she would be killed. The coyotes yelled and pushed the group to hurry up and when they got near enough to the fence to dive onto the floor and stay hidden. The coyotes had cut the barbed wire fence in order for the groups to cross. One by one they were supposed to run to the other side and duck for cover in the bushes so the car going by wouldn’t catch them. My mom and the other people with her ran for their lives. Luckily they all made it and felt this big relief over them but only for a few moments before seeing the bright headlights of the monstrous truck from the border patrol. They had only been walking for a couple of minutes before the border patrol found them. Some ran and some hid, but unfortunately, they were all caught in minutes. 

The “coyote” somehow made a perfect escape and was not caught. Border patrol was interrogated to try to see who would break and tell them who took them this far but nobody would tell for fear of being found by the cartel afterward. Illegally crossing the border to get into the U.S. is one of the most dangerous, awful, and longest journeys of anyone’s life but she persevered for her kids that she had back in El Salvador. My mom thought it was over for her because she had done all of that for no reason and would now be sent back to her home as a failure to her family and kids but luckily she had a trump card by her side. 

In 2005, El Salvador and the U.S. were allies in a war against Iraq, and in their treaty to help each other the U.S. granted citizens of El Salvador to come to the U.S. for a year with a temporary visa. So with that treaty in place in 2005, my mom walked away from border patrol freely, they got her into a bus and left for Naples, Florida, her final destination. 

My father met my mom before ever coming to the U.S.. They knew each other from El Salvador but when they met up again in Naples they fell in love and had me. Again I’m Aldolfo Alberto Cruz Urbina. I’m 17 years old now. When they had me they were still happy with each other and loved each other but my father was very toxic and controlling with my mom. He would beat her and verbally abuse her. She had enough and decided to take me and herself elsewhere where my father couldn’t find us. 

My mom had an uncle in Canada that would help her cross over and get away from my father all she had to do was get to Buffalo and he would do the rest to sneak her in. My mom packed up all her things and left but my father caught wind of this and followed shortly after. My mom made it to Buffalo but her uncle had some setbacks and it was a while before he came to pick up my mom. In that time, my dad had finally found my mom and my mom in a panic ran into the immigration office and tried to get any help. My dad tried to rip me out of her hands to take me away but luckily he was unsuccessful and was arrested. My mom’s temporary visa had run out because it was only good for one year and she was in the U.S. for 3. 

Again, luckily for her, because of the situation that had happened with my father, they couldn’t deport her to El Salvador because it would’ve been a danger to me and my mom so they let her walk. As soon as they let her go she left Buffalo and went to New Jersey but she wanted a fully new start from that whole traumatizing experience. She decided to move to California. We’ve been living in California for 15 years now and my mom still doesn’t have her residency in the U.S. She moved to the U.S. because she believed in the American dream and wanted a better life for her kids but it hasn’t really turned out that way. My mom works very hard and she’s one of the hardest workers I know. I aspire to be even a fraction like her but her hard work sadly isn’t being paid off, as she has to work long shifts day and night to stay afloat. Life doesn’t get easier, life just gets harder and more stressful. My mom always comments about the American dream and how she’s grateful for not suffering as much as people in El Salvador, who can’t even afford food for the day. At a young age, she was told about all of her problems being left behind her but that couldn’t be farther from the truth as she still struggling in all aspects of life. 

Like many other people, they come to this country believing that the American dream is legitimate and it will change their lives forever for the better, but often that isn’t the outcome. 

Ms. Ortez, a history teacher, is another person who has gone through the same belief and experience. Her parents’ names are Jose Ortez and Maria Ortez. They immigrated from El Salvador in the 1960s for a better life and to chase their American dream. They came at a time when it was much easier for them to immigrate to the country and get their residency within a year. 

Even when they did get their residency they had to make themselves feel included because they wanted to fit into the mold of how it is to live in the U.S. 

“They were activists, and they never considered themselves to be but I believe that they have made themselves feel included,” Ortez said. 

Leaving and coming to another country always usually comes with a reason why they left their home country in the first place and if you ask most immigrants it would usually lead to one answer. The American Dream is the belief in a better life for themselves and their families in the U.S.

“Like most immigrants, they came to the U.S. believing that leaving their country and coming to the U.S. would bring more opportunities, and luckily for them, it was just that,” Ortez said “They received better jobs and opportunities otherwise not available in their country.”

Integrating their typical lifestyle into the typical U.S. lifestyle was definitely a learning curve for the Ortez family. Ortez’s parents had very different ways they wanted to live their lives in the U.S.. Jose Ortez wanted to live the same way they have been living back in El Salvador.

“My dad – he would say ‘I’m still Salvadorian and we’re still gonna roast a pig in front of the house’,” Ortez said. “But my mom said no, we’re gonna buy American clothes and play the part. My dad had a harder time but my mom wanted to really assimilate.” 

This isn’t a crazy experience for immigrant families, because some believe they need to act American in order to fit in. Others are stubborn in their own ways and will not change who they are, not even to fit in. 

The first generation, Ms. Ortez and I can luckily be called the first generation of our family who will carry out our family’s legacy in a new environment. I hope reading this article has let you see inside the life of many immigrants struggling and some luckily thriving in their new lives and opportunities that the U.S. provides.

 I’ve learned to embrace my culture and to be proud of what I am and what I have because many others in other countries wish they had a sliver of what I see as an everyday item or occurrence.  

“I’m a first-generation kid and, it definitely has had an influence on me,” Ortez said. “I had to grow up in two different worlds and it was a beautiful thing.”

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About the Contributor
Albert Cruz, Staff Writer
Albert Cruz is a junior and first-year journalist. He enjoys writing about sports and entertainment. He hopes to improve his writing skills this year as a journalist. He enjoys sleeping, playing baloncesto, and listening to music. 

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