The Unrealistic American Dream in New Orleans?

By Alejandra Vargas

When you live in a country where you see struggle and very few opportunities to better your life, you often think similarly to how I think about what life in another country is like. For instance, the “American Dream.” I always thought of the American Dream because of pictures being so realistic and so convincing that everybody is seeking to have the “American Dream.”

No todo lo que ves es lo que parece.  Not everything you see is what it looks like. -Alejandra Vargas

There are people who risk their lives to seize the American Dream; people like my parents who came from Honduras to New Orleans, friends and every Latino Americano and every undocumented person can attest by saying it’s never been an easy journey. Some people die on this journey to achieve the American Dream. But, despite it all there is one story near and dear to me that stands out — mi madre novela.

I sat down with my mother to have a very real and candid conversation about what she thinks to be the “Unrealistic American Dream in New Orleans” from her journey. There are still many memories that plague my mom’s mind when she thinks about her journey from her country to America. These memories bring out a lot of emotions ranging from sad to upset. Can you imagine witnessing people dying while journeying to the land of “freedom and opportunity?” 

It is hard to have nowhere to go my Ma expresses to me in Spanish –our native tongue. She came to New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina because of job opportunities for people. Specifically, for people like my mother who are willing to work jobs most in New Orleans aren’t willing to do. My Ma was born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in an area called Villa Nueva.

Sometimes I wonder if she ever knew she would end up living in New Orleans. But, my mother’s journey has been powered by her love for her family such as myself, brothers, and others who are a part of her life.  

My mother told me “this country can’t ever be compared to my country, it’s two different worlds. But, this country has more opportunities.” She spoke of “opportunity” a lot during the interview. Mi abue (my grandmother) always told me “to always remember where you come from no matter how far in life you get, to remember my people because just like I had struggles back home so do my people.” In the spirit of mi abue (my grandmother) my mother embraced an opportunity and seized the moment to journey to a far away land like America to a city called New Orleans. Even when entering New Orleans the “struggle was real.” The town my mother is from is full of poverty and violence (Tegucigalpa,Villa Nueva). If someone decides to risk it all to leave for the United States in an attempt to gain better opportunity then they are seeking a better one which describes my mother.

Overall, I have learned from my mother’s journey you have to know both sides of a story; you have to live out the experience to truly know “how it goes down” as my art teacher would say. I feel coming from another country to the United States is a journey that is never easy. When you get here it’s not what it looks like; it’s not the American Dream. The American Dream is inside of people — it is in those people who take risks to gain a better life. It’s those people who don’t look back, those who are non-conformist — those people like my mother. My mother has redefined what the American Dream looks like and feels like because not everything you see is what it looks like. This is my mother’s truth.

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