What the Dream Means to Me

How the American Dream has evolved from my grandfather’s generation to mine

From a young age, whether it be in school or through the words of our parents, the idea of the American dream becomes embedded in our perception of our country. For me, I was raised with the stories of my Cuban grandfather laboring on his Havana sugar cane farm, enriched with the Spanish culture of his parents. 

When my dad told me my grandfather escaped Cuba to avoid being controlled by its communist government, I always imagined fantastical images of him racing past the cigar factories and colorful automobiles, jumping on a sailboat to Florida, and just narrowly missing Fidel Castro’s soldiers in pursuit. 

It is only now, eight years later after I heard his story and three years after my grandfather’s death, that I feel I can truly recognize his sacrifice, bravery, and passion to immigrate to this country in search of his American dream. Unfortunately, I can never be certain if he truly found a home—a place of refuge in America. 

Many immigrants are still struggling to prosper in our country today, and my grandfather’s journey has shaped how I view the present existence of the dream in our country.

According to the Pew Research Center, the foreign-born population residing in the U.S. has increased by over 34 million individuals in the past 50 years. As more immigrants are entering America, it is crucial to create and maintain spaces of equality and open-mindedness throughout our country, so our hate does not prevent others from prospering.

Two years ago, sophomore Maria Arrieta immigrated from Colombia with her family for a better life in the U.S.

“Many people there [in Colombia] wanted to go here. If you asked them right now, they would move here. In Colombia, when I was there, there was a problem with peace and war. You could be sitting on a bus, and groups of people come on and start fighting. It was pretty good that we moved here,” Arrieta said.

Arrieta’s experience in America has shaped her personal dreams for the future.

“[The American Dream] is different for everyone. When I was in Colombia, and I would imagine myself in America, I would think of movies,” Arrieta said. “I don’t want to leave. There’s such a good education here, so I feel like it’s better here. Colombia is my place, but I want to have a nice future and raise my kids here.”

Seeing as how Maria, my grandfather, and many other Hispanic immigrants have fought through social obstacles and policy to be finally established here in this country, I find the hope and faith they have truly amazing. Admittedly, I sometimes find myself ashamed of America’s actions. I get angry at the miscalculations, the unpunished crimes, the inherent biases.

But I want to see my country through my grandfather’s eyes: a place of opportunity and hope. Despite the seven, long years it took him to become a citizen and all of the setbacks that came with it, he was still proud and honored to be an American.

While my grandfather is gone, I know there are millions of others like him, searching for a place to belong. I only hope that my generation can be the ones to begin the cleansing of our nation’s current aberrations. Because when we begin healing, that’s when we can finally resume dreaming.

So maybe that’s what the American dream is: hope for the future.