One Common Thread in the Blanket of Dreams
by Stephanie Muñoz, July 2014
The American dream is something that a lot of immigrants moving to America are trying to fulfill. Many people have different ideas of the American dream, but in the end are just looking for a better way of life. For one man in specific, he has faced quite a few challenges to try to achieve his own version of the American dream. This man’s name is Ramón and he moved from Ecuador to the United Stated to complete his American dream. Ramón had envisioned his American dream to be in a place of progressing. His early life was not the best because he lived in poverty. There was a lot of corruption where he lived and moving to America would be the stepping stone he needed to get his life together. As Ramón tried to grow in his life, he viewed the American dream as a better way to live, and was going to accomplish his American dream with his ambition and hard work.
Ramón’s life started out difficult. It was at the age of seven when he his best childhood memories came to a halt and he had to grow up more quickly. His dad was always leaving to America to try and make some money so that he could support the family. Ramón and his mother moved in with his grandmother. He is the oldest of four sisters and a brother. When he got older and left, he barely got to spend time with his younger siblings because he left at a pretty young age. He did not finish his education and eventually decided to join the Ecuadorian military. His father was always pushing him to do something with his life, but it was hard to do anything in Ecuador due to corruption. People in Ecuador would only help someone if they knew the person, or had money. Everyone else was a victim of low income. Some people in Ecuador have a different mentality. They are not ambitious, and do not try to do something else to make life better life for themselves. Ramón believed that in America, if he worked hard enough he could achieve whatever he wanted. America was a place where he wanted his dreams to come true and not be another victim in the corrupt environment of Ecuador. The first few years of his life were hard, but then he had the chance to move to America. His father paid for someone to cross him over the border into the US so that Ramón could start his new life. After looking for a while, a family friend told Ramón about a company that he could probably work for. Ramón got the job and immediately started saving money. He acquired his residency and from there everything seemed to come more easily. At first, Ramón wanted to go back to Ecuador, after a few years, because the money made in America is a lot of money when taken back to Ecuador, but then decided that he liked America better.
At first, thought, the American Dream can be easily defined as the chance to create an opportunity. It is when one begins to work at it that one discovers how multifaceted it actually is. It involves so many variables to define the American Dream. It depends on the person, the timing, the location, etc. The American Dream is a blanket made up of many different threads. It is unclear when the American Dream actually began. The Library of Congress has outlined the different time periods the American Dream could have begun from the authors of the Declaration of Independence to the homesteaders, or from when the immigrants who first arrived to when veterans would come back from fighting and wished for more (LOC). For each of those groups, each dream was different as well. One common thread in the blanket of dreams is money. It is universally acknowledged money that can help people reach many dreams. This is not limited to immigrants searching for better pay, but true for everyone. Money extends to the other threads that create the dream. It can lead to higher education and therefore a better paying job. A higher education opens more doors, creating a social status and security (Lazerson). It could be more simplistic like having enough money to feed a family or more materialistic and have enough to splurge. The message of the American Dream is to inspire the idea of the grass being green on the other side, that one day it will get better. The dream can stay constant or can shift over time. Life finds a way of altering it. Perhaps that is why it is so hard to attain the American Dream, because of its ever-changing fluidity. In order to fulfill the dream, people go through all possible measures. Immigrants leave their counties, their homes, to sow what they hope will be enough to bring back. A person can take more than one job and sacrifice a lot to stay on track. The more effort put into the dream, the more desirable it is.
When Ramón was just a young man, he dreamed of accomplishing his American dream. He had pictured his own version of the dream, and described it: “I thought it was a country you can progress more easily than my own country. I think there are more opportunities to progress in this country than my country.” It was clear that Ramón thought that America was a country of opportunity, whereas Ecuador was not. He explains that there is a lot of corruption in Ecuador and that, if someone is working, there is no chance of ever getting promoted unless he or she knows someone or has the money. If someone works hard, he or she will not get anywhere, but in America, Ramón believed that if he worked hard enough he could progress. He believed that in America there were more opportunities for him to change jobs and make more money, while in Ecuador it seemed impossible. Usually, if someone quits one job, he or she would be lucky to find another job. People sometimes end up staying with the same job and only make a little bit of money. Even if someone works hard, it is hard to get anything. Then, on top of that, it was hard to get a job. Many people would move outside of the country. After he turned eighteen years old, that was the official moment when he decided that he wanted to move to America and make a better life for himself. When Ramón would see friends coming back to visit Ecuador, he noticed that they were living better lives in America. He would imagine himself getting paid for his hard work and his life would be better financially. Ramón wanted some of the average things in life, and says, “My dream is to have a house, a good job, a nice car, and to have money.” Although he wanted some of the basic necessities to live a happy life such as shelter, transportation along with a steady income, he wasn’t too sure of how he was going to complete his goals. He mentions, “I was not looking for a career, only for a better way of life.” He believed that he would achieve these items with hard work. Most importantly he believed in himself, that he could attain success. Ramón felt that he was capable of accomplishing his American dream.
Ramón’s early life is what led him to chase the American dream. Even if he worked hard in Ecuador, he would not get paid enough. He says that many companies will only hire someone for three months before they fire him, so they will not have to give the worker benefits. Ramón explains, “Life was very scary because I thought it was easy to make money, but I realized that living here was tough.” Unfortunately, Ramón only had one job throughout his twenty three years of living in Ecuador. When he got older, he did not go to college, and even dropped out of high school in his third year. He reflected, “School was boring and I was not a good student.” Ramón really did not like the idea of going to school. At the age of eighteen, he joined the Ecuadorian military. He thought that the military was better than going to school. The military in Ecuador used to take in anyone. They would find people that were uneducated and did not know how to read or write. Ramón’s first year in the military was the first year that they had educated students, meaning that they at least knew how to read and write. Therefore, he sincerely takes pride of when he joined the military in Ecuador because they were the first graduating class that was educated. Since they were the first educated graduating class, they only had to stay six months whereas all the other men had to stay at least one year. After he was done with the military, he chose not to stay because he didn’t like people telling him what to do all the time, like wake up early. There were too many rules for him. Their military, however, did not get any benefits either, but he stayed because he was not doing anything with his life. He explains, “I wanted to prove to my dad that I was good for something and I wanted to do something with my life, my dad was very strict and always pushing me to something.” His dad went to America a few times to try to make a living. Ramón would live with his grandma and they suffered a lot. His father would come back to Ecuador, and then leave again. When Ramón was nineteen, his father left Ecuador to go to the United States one last time, so when Ramón turned twenty three, his dad said, “This is your last chance to make something of your life.” It was hard to accomplish his desires in Ecuador and he was still without a job at twenty two, so that was the moment that Ramón made a change in his life and decided to just chase after the American dream.
After having a challenging early life, Ramón decided that it was time to make a change in his life. It was at the age of twenty-three that he realized that he did not want to just be stuck doing nothing with his life, so he stopped contemplating and started doing. With the help of his father, he finally took action and made his first step to make his American dream come true. Ramón’s father paid for the process to come to America because he did not have any money. At first, Ramón flew from Ecuador to Mexico City, with a visa. From Mexico City, he met up with someone to take him to Tijuana, Mexico. Ramón did not have the visa to travel from Mexico to the United States, so he had to meet up with another person to help him cross the border illegally, known as a coyote. Moving from Tijuana and over the border, he went to San Diego to meet his dad. Later, his dad brought him to Orange County. They went to Orange County because his dad was currently living with his brother-in-law. The whole process of coming to the US from only took about four to five days. The first thing that Ramón remembers about when he got to America was that his father took him to Pioneer Chicken, which is a takeout restaurant. At first, he didn’t like America, as he demonstrates, “I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have money, no family here I live with my uncle. In the beginning, it was hard. The beginning is too hard. I thought after 4 o5 years I would go back to my country.” It was not until he got his first paycheck that he changed his mind about America. His father left shortly after he got Ramón settled in America, but left his uncle’s place after one year; when he got a job, so he was on his own most of the time. He then says, “After I got my checks, I started liking the money and the country too.” Eventually, living the American dream did not seem impossible anymore. Becoming independent and being ambitious is what got him to the first step of accomplishing his American dream.
The next step of Ramón’s life in trying to attain the American dream, was getting a job. Before his dad left to go back home, he tried to help Ramón look for a job. A family friend told Ramón to go to this company and luckily they accepted him and he found work. It took him a year to find a job, and in that time he did not have a car or any transportation, so his dad bought him a bike. He used this bike to get to work, where he was a laborer at an electronic company. It was scary for him in the beginning and he remembers, “I use to work at night. One time, I was driving my bike at night and someone threw something at me. It was scary to go to work in the graveyard shift at night.” However, nothing stopped him from achieving his goals. Ramón struggled a lot, but eventually explains that, “My first check I got, I was so happy. It was the first time I had my own money, my own things.” He worked hard and achieved his first glimmer of hope that his life would have meaning. Ramón says that at the place where he worked, about ninety percent of the people were not legal citizens. This is the reason why he decided to apply for residency. After he moved out of his uncle’s house, he looked at the newspaper and found a place to rent. It was cheaper to rent rooms in a house than to rent an apartment. In the beginning, he would live in one room with three or four other people and even live in bad places for about six to seven months. He didn’t want all of his money to go into his living situation at the moment, but wanted to save money for a better place in the future. Sometimes, it would get up to five or six people living in the same room, which caused Ramón to move a lot and look for cheaper places to live. He summarizes, “One time when I was renting a room, I went to work at four o’clock in the morning and when I went back the house was empty. Immigration had come at six o’clock in the morning. If I was there they would have got me too.” He was extremely lucky, but it was a close call. Ramón eventually got laid off and had to start looking for another job with barely any work experience, but he managed. It took him a while to learn English because 90% of the people where he was spoke Spanish. To learn English, he would watch a lot of TV in English, and the sports channels were his favorite. Slowly but surely, Ramón was adapting to the American culture. It took him about ten years to finally get used to living here, but now he was on his way to completing his journey of accomplishing the American dream.
Finally knowing a little bit of what he wanted to do with his life and earning a steady job, it was time to make it official and become a legal resident. He started small at first with trying to obtain a driver’s license. Ramón’s uncle’s friend let him borrow his car so he can learn how to drive and receive his license. He learned how to drive within the first year of moving to America. Then made the next move and bought a car for six hundred dollars. During his early years, they did not give people a hard time for not having legal residency, so it was easier for Ramón to get his driver’s license. Ramón lived approximately fifteen years without documentation. Later, he went to school to try to acquire amnesty. He applied for amnesty so he could do legal work in the United States. At that time, the government approved immigrants to apply from other countries. Next, Ramón applied for his green card. Getting his green card was a little more difficult because he did not have any papers, only an ID. He ended up getting approved within a year, which was good because his job required him to have a green card work. In the year 2000, Ramón explains, “After I see my friends getting their citizenship I decided to apply. My friends did not even speak or understand English and they still got their citizenship.” With all his friends receiving citizenship, Ramón believed that he had a chance of finally becoming a legal citizen of the United States. He was forty when he got his citizenship. The company he worked for now would fire him if he did not have legal status. It was actually quite simple for him to receive US citizenship because he was truly a good man. He demonstrates, “I did not have problems with the government; I paid taxes, I have not been to jail I was a legal resident, and everything they needed, I had it.” He knew a little bit of English at the time so when it was time for his interview, they gave it to him in English. In the interview they asked him, “Who was the first president of the United States?” to which Ramón replied, “George Washington.” Then they asked him to write, “The rabbit is color purple.” After the interview he checked the answer, he said, “Ok, your paperwork will come in the mail.” Then, he waited to get sworn in and about five to six months later he got all his paperwork in the mail. He exclaimed, “I was very happy.” After all of Ramón’s hard work he had now made an American identity for himself. He has now made the final step to accomplishing his American dream, more smoothly.
Ramón’s life now is much better than it was before. He states, “Life now is much better and I’m about halfway to accomplishing the American dream.” He explains that he still wants to accomplish more, and is not completely satisfied just yet. Life now is better financially living in America than is Ecuador, but he still has a little bit of stress. He is much happier and says, “I love it here. I have my house, I have my work and I am learning more.” Ramón also has a beautiful wife and two daughters. He seems to have more in the United States, and says that he doesn’t want to go back to live in Ecuador again. He loves Ecuador, but he would only want to visit for vacation. Ramón has achieved a lot of to get to where he is today and has faced many challenges, but that did not stop him even a little bit because his desire was to strong.
Although Ramón is not yet completely done accomplishing his American dream, he has achieved a lot. It started with a dream and a strict father who pushed him to do something with his life. Then, he started to realize that his dad was right and that he needed to do something with his life. In an effort to impress his dad, he joined the military, but that was not enough. Finally, he decided that, to make a better life for himself, he was going to go to America, and leave his home country. He started with nothing but a place to stay at his uncle’s house, but came to the conclusion that he want to pursue more. After getting a job, which pushed him a little bit more to apply for amnesty, he finally got his green card and was able to obtain residency. In the end, he has faced many challenges in life and overcome a lot of them. He has accomplished half of his version of the American dream and did it with hard work and not giving up.
Lazerson, Marvin. Higher Education And The American Dream : Success And Its Discontents. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 22 July 2014.
Leon, Harmon. The American Dream : Walking In The Shoes Of Carnies, Arms Dealers, Immigrant Dreamers, Pot Farmers, And Christian Believers. New York: Nation Books, 2008. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 22 July 2014.
“The American Dream:What Is The American Dream?” Students. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2014. < http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/lessons/american-dream/students/thedream.html>
Stephanie: What is your name?
Ramón: My name is Ramón Chavez.
Stephanie: Where did you immigrate from?
Ramón: I came from South America Ecuador.
Stephanie: How was life like when you lived in Ecuador?
Ramón: My life was a little bit rough.
Stephanie: How was it rough?
Ramón: Cause when I was little my dad came to United States to live in New York. My mom didn’t have money to take care of my sister not enough money to take care of me and all my sisters. Then after she move to United States. They left us with my parent’s tor your uncle to take care of us. I grew up with no family sometimes with no clothes or no shoes. Later as a teenager I was thinking about coming to United States.
Stephanie: Did your parents come back?
Ramón: Later on they dad use to give may mom a hard time to my mom about money. Money money. That’s why I decided to come to the Unite states for a better life.
Stephanie: Did your parents Where your parents legal when they came to the United States?
Ramón: I believe my mom came legally. My father came 3 or 4 times illegally. Trips. So they are not us citizen. My father lost the papers, but he help me come here illegally.
Stephanie: So how was life before you decided to come to America?
Ramón: No too happy, I don’t have money have to depend on my mom and dad. No opportunity to make money
Stephanie: So how’s was your journey over here over her?
Ramón: I came through Mexicali, we had somebody to my dad paid for everything. My dad was living her in the US at the time,
Stephanie: How did you get to Mexico?
Ramón: I had a visa. They crossed with the coyote.
Stephanie: So what did you right when you crossed the border?
Ramón: My father came to pick to up. We went to live with my uncle. My dad bought me a bike.
Stephanie: Where did you work?
Ramón: In a electronic company. I was a laborer.
Stephanie: Do you have any experience when you work there?
Ramón: I use to work at night. One time I was driving at night and someone through something at me. It was scary to go to work in the graveyard shift at night.
Stephanie: So why did you decide to stay here?
Ramón: After I got my first check I was so happy. It was the first time I had my own money. If you work hard you can whatever you want. In my country you work hard you don’t get anything.
Stephanie: So what do you mean when you work hard you don’t get anything?
Ramón: If you work hard you don’t go higher and higher. You only stay at the same level. Here you can go higher higher, you can change job to get higher over there you don’t progress you don’t have opportunity over there that’s why people stay at the same job.
Stephanie: So were you still an immigrant undocumented when you were working at the factory?
Ramón: Yeah I did I was working for about 10 to 15 years with out legal papers. Later on when amnesty came I tried to apply for legal work status. That why I applied for green card I got it.
Stephanie: So how tell me the story of how you got it.
Ramón: It was a little hard the company say it you don’t have legal status you would get fired. That’s why I had to go to school to learn about how to get my legal resident. I had to go to school to learn about the amnesty. Tough
Stephanie: How long did it take you?
Ramón: I had my legal status to work only to work I don’t have my Later on I applied for citizenship. My citizenship was not a hard time because I pay my taxes, or never been to jail …. Later applied and 6 months later they call me to do an interview I qualified and I past the test. I was happy everyone wants to have a citizenship.
Stephanie: Were you happy? What kind of questions did they ask you in there interview?
Ramón: I was talking with him I know a little bit of English, he took me to a room, he ask me question He asked who was the first president of the United States. He check my papers, he asked me to write the rabbit is color purple. He check the paper and said everything is all right. He said the paperwork was all. Your paperwork will come in to get sworn in. Then he waited to get sworn in. to do the I don’t know.
Stephanie: Say it in Spanish,
Stephanie: Oh do the court thing
Ramón: Everything took about 5 or 6 month. Applica, and citing not like other people 1 to 3 years. That’s why have my citizenship now.
Stephanie: So when you were working why didn’t decide get your citizenship while you were working in the factory.
Ramón: Because all of the company has to be legal 90% of company was illegal they didn’t have the papers. Most of people were illegal without paper that’s why I did my resident first then my citizenship, that’s why I applied for citizenship.
Stephanie: So were you living there with your dad and your uncle?
Ramón: Yeah, then my dad left me and I stayed with my uncle. I stayed with my uncle for 1 year. After 1 year I left my uncle and 1 room 3 or 4 people in 1 room, I did that for 1 year some places were very bad.
Stephanie: So you didn’t know the people you were renting the room from.
Ramón: Cheaper place to One time I read the Spanish newspaper to rent the room when over there they gave me the price and. The lady said only me and other person in the room, but later people kept coming and coming and there were about 5 or 6 people in the room for 6 or 7 months I had to stay, I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I went to look for another place rooms were cheaper the apartment were more expensive. I just rented rooms, it was cheaper.
Stephanie: So how long did it take to learn English?
Ramón: Most people in the company spoke Spanish. A long time. 90% of people speak Spanish. Someone told him was no good, you won’t learn English. The way Learn English is watching TV I used to watch sports, that how I learned how. I watch a lot of sports channels. My English is not perfect but that the way I learn I understand more but I don’t speak as well.
Stephanie: So what did you put on your resume for work experience.
Stephanie: How did you get your 1st job?
Ramón: Some family friend told me to go to this company to get a job. Later on, the company laid off and I had to look for another job. After
Stephanie: So, did you like it here at first when you came?
Ramón: Really No
Stephanie: Why not?
Ramón: I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have money, no family here I live with my uncle. In the beginning it was hard. I lived with my uncle for 1 year. At least I had food, family. After I got a job I left. But after I got my checks, I started liking the money and the country too. My country has too much corruption, the people, but only if you have money it was
Stephanie: Why did you chose American and not like Canada.
Ramón: My father and my mother came here already.
Stephanie: So why did you choose California?
Ramón: My dad came to California and I have a aunt. She had a house in Santa Ana. And my dad lived here so that why I came to live with my dad.
Stephanie: So what was your dreams to accomplish? When you came here?
Ramón: My dream is to have a house, a good job, a nice car, and to have money.
1. How did you view the “American Dream”? (Your view of America)
I thought it was a country you can progress more easily than my own country. I think there are more opportunities to progress in this country than my country.
2. When did you realize that you wanted to come to America?
After I turned 18 years old, I saw families and friends living better in America when they came back to visit us in our country.
3. What did you imagine yourself doing when you got here?
Working and getting paid for my hard work. It’s better economically.
4. What kind of career did hope to get when you came here?
I wasn’t looking for a career only for a better way of life.
5. How did you think you were going to accomplish the “American dream”?
With hard work.
6. How was your early life?
Very scary. Because I thought it was easy to make money, but I realized you have to work hard to get your goals.
7. What made you want to move?
I realized there weren’t any opportunities in my country to advance economically.
8. Did you try to accomplish any goals while you were in Ecuador?
Not really, because it was hard for me to accomplish my desires.
9. When was the exact moment when you completely decided you were going to try to accomplish your “American Dream”
When I was 22 year old and I didn’t have a job in my country.
10. When were you actually prepared to move/ were you prepared to move?
When I was 23 I didn’t want to be stuck doing nothing with my life.
11. When did you move?
At the age of 23.
12. What was the first step to your move?
My father helped me move.
13. What was the next step? (keep asking this question until he finally tells you how he got to America.)
My father paid for the process to come to this country. Because I didn’t have any money. My father was living in California. He paid for my flight from Ecuador to Mexico City. From Mexico City, my father paid someone to take me to Tijuana. From Tijuana I passed over the border to San Diego. They took me to Orange County where I met up with my father.
14. What was the first thing you did when you got to America?
My father took me to Pioneer Chicken.
15. When did you get a job?
After a year.
16. How did you get your residency?
I applied for amnesty because at that time the government approves immigrants to apply from other countries.
Where were you living before? (when you first got to America)
I was living with my aunt in Santa Ana, California.
17. Were you scared immigration would find you when you did apply for residency?
I was worried until I got my residency.
18. When did you get your green card?
After I applied for amnesty, but I had to wait to get approved.
19. How did you get your green card?
I just applied.
20. Was it easy?
Yes, I never had any problems with the law or government so I got approved within a year. Also, my job required me to have a green card to work.
21. When did you get your citizenship?
In 2000, after I see my friends getting their citizenship I decided to apply. My friends didn’t even speak or understand English and they still got their citizenship.
22. When did you get your driver’s license?
A year after I came to California.
23. How did you get it if you weren’t officially a U.S. citizen?
At that time it was not required to be a citizen.
24. How is life now for you?
25. Would you say that you accomplished the “American Dream”?
Halfways. I still want to accomplish more.
26. Are you satisfied with how far you got with accomplishing the “American dream”?
Not completely satisfied.
27. Is it better or worse than what you wanted/expected?
It’s better financially living here than in my country. But with a little bit of stress.