My Parents’ American Dream

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(Photo credit: Shawn Wen)

I am my parents’ “American Dream.” My parents brought me to the United States from El Salvador when I was 5. I was upset that my parents took me to an unknown place, where kids taunted me for my accent and laughed when I didn’t understand.

In elementary school, I struggled to learn English. But once I became fluent, I felt superior to my parents. I became frustrated with them for not being like the parents I saw on TV.

When I had to translate at the supermarket, or at parent-teacher conferences, I felt embarrassed and burdened by my family. One day, my aunt asked me what a word meant. I snapped at her, “Why don’t you just learn English?”

I watched as the light left her face. At that moment, I realized the impact of my words. In my effort to assimilate, I was no longer a person I liked. I’d suppressed my roots and become ashamed of my family.

In middle school, I learned about the treatment of immigrants in the U.S and the prejudice they–or, rather, we–faced. I saw how my parents were viewed as inferior because of their broken English and their humbled jobs.

Now, I realize then that my mom and dad crossed borders for me. They left their home country behind to give me the “American Dream.” But, like other immigrants, they discovered that this dream is only attainable if you know English and have a solid education. My parents had neither. But they believed if I worked hard enough, I could achieve everything they dreamed of for me.

While my parents struggled, their radical love gave me the privilege to thrive in the country of opportunity. Now when they ask me to translate, I do it with patience and love. When someone asks what my parents do for a living, I answer with pride that my dad is a gardener and my mother is a housekeeper.

Today, I’m struggling to be the first in my family to go to college, in hopes of one day repaying even an ounce of all they’ve sacrificed for me.

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