On my 16th birthday, in an indigenous village in southern Mexico, I translated for a church group of white Americans from my hometown in eastern Washington state. In their one-room hut, I asked an indigenous Mexican family what they wanted to know about the United States. The daughter replied in Spanish, “Nothing.” The conversation moved back to their lives, their work, how they grew their food as indigenous subsistence farmers.
Most of us assume the American dream is universal, that everyone wants the specifically American rags-to-riches story told ubiquitously from Horatio Alger in the 19th century to contemporary soap operas. This assumption provides a backdrop to the current immigration debates, fears of the “tide” of Latin American immigrants assumed to be wanting to come in, and desires to “secure” the southern border through increasingly dangerous means. Yet, on this 4th of July, we might do well to spend a moment thinking critically. Who dreams this American dream and who does not?
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