American Dream

The most complicated part of this class was doing the interview. It was somewhat of a challenge doing this interview but it was fun.  I interviewed Rigo.  Take a look at his story.  Its really interesting.

Thats Rigo, the interviewee with the hat and the other guy is me


“American Dream”


As a migrant coming from a migrating family I have listen to several exciting migration stories that I will never forget.  That is why when I was assigned on a mission to interview a migrant with the purpose of learning their story and their priorities; I was faced with a dilemma.   The problem was not where to get an immigrant to interview, but rather, who of all the “storytellers” I know, was going to be my interviewee.  After several days of reviewing who would best enrich my cultural project, I got to a conclusion.  Throughout those many stories I’ve heard.  There is one that I was never able to listen completely and in detail from the actual person who lived it.  I decided to interview my Godfather, Rigoberto Vazquez.  He has forever been a friend of the family and has experienced the ups and downs of becoming an immigrant in the United States.  Rigoberto is a Mexican immigrant and this is his story.

My name is Rigoberto Vazquez Villicańa and I was born in Morelia, Michoacan Mexico.  I have live in the United States since 1978.  Yet, I did not become a legal resident until 1990.  I currently reside in Avondale, Arizona and have a beautiful family and a job that brings food into our home.  Although, I am living the “American Dream” that many immigrants desire, it was not an easy journey.  There were and at times still are bumps along the way.

Even though I was born in Michoacan, I lived most of my life in Mexicali, Baja California Mexico, a city that shares their border with Calexico, California.   It was in this place where I worked from daylight to sunset every day in a “maquiladora”.  It was intense work and at times risky and dangerous due to the lack of machinery knowledge and long exhausting hours.  The worst thing was that all of that was done just to receive $40 a week.  As you can see, it is hard to give your family the best things the world has to offer when you are living in Mexico under a miserable wage. 

I eventually got married.  With more expenses to cover, I was cornered into a dead end alley.  I did not have enough money and there were not enough hours in a day for me to work that would get me out of the hole.  It was then where I was left with no other option but to leave my homeland in search of a better life in the United States.  That was not what I wanted, but then again, I was tired of living from paycheck to paycheck.  I will never forget the day I decided to cross the line and become an illegal in an unknown country.  Little did I know that my life was going to change forever the day I left Mexico. 

It was in a night of July that I left Sonoyta, Sonora Mexico, a town located in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.  The plan was to reach Ajo, Arizona.  A community located about 40 miles from the border.  If that when well, then we were going to be picked up by friends that would take us to Phoenix, Arizona.  It was the journey of my life.  We left with little water, but then again, we couldn’t carry that much. Half way into our journey, our water ran out. Also my cousin sprained his ankle.  Making it almost impossible for him to walk and with no more water, the odds were against us. I had no other choice but to carry him throughout the rest of the journey.  I remember walking with him on my shoulder with really nothing on my mind, afraid that my mind would play tricks on me. The only fear that I had was not of being caught by “la migra”, but of never seeing my family again.  The day was our worst enemy.  Dehydration was defeating us. Fortunately, we were able to reach our destiny.  It took us two long days to reach the place that to us was considered salvation.  Once their, we stole oranges from a tree. We were starving and in need of getting hydrated.  Even though we were almost dying, that really didn’t matter, the happiness of knowing that we were half way into Phoenix, meant more.

With difficulties, but we were able to reach Ajo.  We were to meet our friends on the outsides of the only church in Ajo.  Trying to not attract much attention we were able to reach the church.  We waited in that church for several hours.  We were becoming desperate.  We did not know what to do.  Desperate for food, I approached what seemed to me were also Mexicans and asked them for money to buy something to eat. I felt so ashamed of myself, but I did not have any other choice. To this day I give thanks to “La Virgencita” for putting those people in my way.  They gave us water and bought us the best meal that I’ve had so far.  As we were waiting and eating our meals we told them our story.  We then realized we had something in common.  We were both heading to Phoenix.  They were from Phoenix but were just visiting Ajo.  Without us asking them, they offered to take us to Phoenix.   Thinking our friends were not coming, we were not going to let this opportunity go.  We were perfect strangers to them, but they did not care. They were willing to risk their legal status in the United States for us.  In contrast to a day before, the odds now seemed to be in our favor.   We were able to reach Phoenix with no difficulties.  After three full days of journey, we finally got to our destination.  The couple knew the address and dropped us at our friend’s house.  We thank that couple and still do, so much.   To this day, I have not had the opportunity of seeing them again to show them my gratitude.   As to our friends, well, they were home.  Apparently their car broke down and did not have a vehicle to get to Ajo.  I don’t blame them for not being their.  The only thing that mattered was that I was able to reach my destination alive.

When I first came here I was faced with barriers that were difficult to overcome.  I did not know any English other than no and yes.  Because of this issue, I could not be on my own.  I was afraid of walking around by myself.  My friends did not know much English either, but at least they knew their way around.  I was able to overcome this through necessity.   It is something that I had to learn.  I had to take initiative and not depend on other people.  I then realized that life in the United States was not easy.  No one ever told me it was going to be easy, but in Mexico, you listen to stories from immigrants who go back to Mexico.  They tell you all the money they make, the places they see, in other words they tell you the good side.  That is the image I had of America.  Even though that is true, it is not the reality.  The reality is that everything is worth something.  I guess that is something I did not quite understood completely, even though I had already done many sacrifices by coming to the US.  It was hard for me to accept all this since I was only 18 years old.   I also encountered several racist issues.  I remember I was referred to as a “beaner” and even a criminal.  At times by Hispanics, I was referred to as a “ mojadito.”  I always asked myself, where are these Hispanics from to be judging me like that? I have also encountered discriminatory issues which I think are mostly based on my color skin.  They question my status in this country.  By they I mean for the most part, the white male. I did not put much attention to it.  I knew that the only reason I came here was to reach “the American Dream.”  As the years have passed and more people have immigrated, Americans have been accepting the fact that our population is booming and we are here to stay.

One thing I did like was the way American managers treat their employees.  To my fortune, I’ve had good employers.  I realized that unlike in Mexico, employees here do have a voice.  At times employers expect your opinion as an employee, when in Mexico all they care about is you working the entire shift.  This is probably the biggest culture shock I’ve encounter.  In Mexico, I hardly had a conversation with my supervisor.  Most of them felt superior to us.  Unfortunately, that is how we are as Mexicans.  Why does it have to be that way?   Here, that is not the case.  It is something that I do think our people need to learn.  Other than at work, I have not had any problems when it comes to my culture.  For the most part, it is because I am usually around people from the same background.

 Since the first day in Phoenix, I have been a construction worker.  It paid little money and demanded hard labor work, but I had nothing to complain.  It was better than in Mexico. To this day I still work in the construction business.  My first pay checks were mostly sent to Mexico on remittances.  My wife depended on me in Mexico.  Even though she was with her family, she was still my responsibility.  Due to my illegal status, I wasn’t able to see her for 2 years.  After living here for a couple of years and knowing my way around, I decided to bring her with me.  Once here, I realized she was the support that I needed.  She did not become a legal alien until, 1999, just recently.  Now that we are able to go to Mexico, we no longer send remittances. We only do so, on emergencies.  Instead, I give my parents money whenever I go see them, which is at least once a month.  My wife and I still miss Mexico.  Even though this is the case, we can’t go back, we want the best for our children and we think that the best place is here in the United States.  Maybe someday when my wife and I are old and alone, only then, we might go back.

It is difficult to start a new life, but like they say, sometimes you have to take risks. I believe I’ve been a lucky man. I have been fulfilled with many satisfactions. One of them has been learning this country’s language. Through effort and dedication I was able to learn English.  Thanks to this I am now a supervisor and no longer a labor worker.  I often talk with my employees and tell them my story.  I let them know that it is a challenge to learn English and to prosper in the United States, but it is not nearly impossible. Nothing will stop my people from searching for a better life, not Proposition 200 or even the Minute Men. Today, I have two children that are studying to one day become educated professional people, a wife that is always there to support me, a financially secured life and a work that fulfills me. If you are still wondering what I mean by reaching “the American Dream,” I can just tell you that I don’t get tired of repeating it. 




Rigoberto is just one of the millions of migrants living in our country.  Like many illegals coming into this country, he struggled.  He took whatever job was offered to him in order to survive and raise his family back home.  Many times it is not the best job thought. As Saskia Sassen said in Report on the Americas, “Immigrants are more likely than U.S. citizens to gravitate toward poorly paid jobs.”  In this report she goes around the world pointing out why people migrate.  In most cases, salaries in other countries are lower than in the US so even a low paying job, may be better than what they had back home. But, then again, what other option do they have as illegal or new immigrants?  They are the new kids on the block, they are in many cases abused due to the lack of knowledge of their new country.

An interesting comment that Rigoberto said was that he often heard stories from people who returned to Mexico about the United States.  This shows that at times Mexicans don’t send remittances back to their homeland, but in most cases they return home after working in the United States for several years taking with them their income.   It is interesting to see how Rigoberto has experienced what Jorge Durand said in his article From traitors to heroes: 100 years of Mexican Migration Policies posted in the Migration Information Source webpage, “Despite the fact that one out of every 10 Mexicans lives in the United States, Mexico still does not see itself as a country of emigrants.”  In this article Duran shows how Mexicans who first helped the United States economy and then went home with their income, went from traitors to heroes of the Mexican economy.  Rigoberto also said that maybe when he is older he might go back to Mexico.  This is an example of how he is a candidate to become 1 of the 10 Mexicans living in the United States that might later go back to Mexico.

Finally, it is interesting to analyze what Rigoberto said about his discriminatory and racist experiences in the United States.  Many times immigrants are judged by US Citizens without knowing what they are saying.  These people are considered ignorant people.  In Arizona, according to Thunderbird School of International Management, immigrants generated a fiscal surplus estimated at US$106 million in 2001. Even though there is the Minute Men, Prop. 200 and all those issues that can be correlated with discriminatory issues, the fact is that migration is benefiting Arizona not affecting it.  Moreover, according to Jenn Allen in her report Justice on the Line, border towns feel that the Border Patrol, a government organization is, has broken the unity and trust of the town.  These are comments made by US citizens also.  This raises the question, how much of the discriminatory issues raised today is related to Government intervention?  Unfortunately, there is not much immigrants can do as long as they are the minority.  Just listen to the Mexican musical rock band Molotov’s song, Frijolero, an anthem to all the immigrants that dares all those people who discriminate them to wear their shoes to see what they would do.

It is well understood why it is hard to create a successful life in Mexico. What matters the most in Mexico is who you know not what you know.  It is sad to see how Mexicans at times discriminate their own people in their own country only because they don’t know the right people.  This then raises another question which many people might ask, how do you expect US citizens not to discriminate Mexicans if even their own people discriminate them?   That is a question that can be responded, but would take a completely new analysis.  In the meanwhile, what is left to be said is that Rigoberto struggled and overcame many obstacles through his journey into the United States. The worst thing an immigrant is faced with is not in their migrating country or during their migration journey; it is at the moment in which they have to leave there loved ones basically, unwillingly 


Michoacan                                                                                                       THATS THE MAN

                                                                                                          "EL CARITAS DE RIGO Y SU PULGARCITO"      (PRETTY FACE RIGO AND HIS CAR PULGARCITO)

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