ORGULLO LATINOReading time: 4 minutes
For Latinos the American Dream is not about the individual – it's about family
The concept of “going it alone” is at odds with our identities and cultural heritages.
Many of us who migrate to the US are soñadores – we fantasize about becoming wealthy and obtaining opportunities that we may not have had access to before.
This, on the face of it, appears similar to a concept that dates back to the 1930s, known as the "American Dream".
Coined by James Truslow Adams in his landmark book, The Epic of America, the American Dream centers on the idea that, through hard work and determination, anyone can achieve success and prosperity in the United States, regardless of their background.
Over the generations, this is thought to have encouraged millions of Latinos to cross the border from the south in search of greater economic opportunities.
In fact, according to a recent study by Pew Research, Latinos are more invested in core parts of the American Dream than most – in particular, the idea that hard work will pay off and that each successive generation is better off than the one before it.
However, unlike others who prioritize their own prosperity when pursuing a better life, our version of the American Dream has a significant driving force: family.
Television host Daniel Ortiz shares the same sentiment. "Americans, in general, place a high value on 'rugged individualism' and 'achievement and success', which are often given priority over family.
"The core values of Hispanics are, what I like to refer to as, the three Fs: faith, family, and frijoles, meaning our culture. For Hispanics, our dreams, and our very identity, involve our family. Achieving the 'American Dream' is meaningless if we lose our Latin soul in the process."
Family is a fundamental component for Latinos
For many of us, family belonging is ingrained into our way of living and extends well beyond the “nuclear model” of many US families.
In fact, for most Latinos, family usually consists of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even people who are not biologically related to us, but are close friends to a family member.
The strong family values Latinos families possess have usually been passed along from generation to generation. And these values, along with the rituals and traditions that come along with them, further enhance the family unity.
For example, when a member of the family travels away from home, it is likely they will stay with a relative and or with a family friend (tío or tía). As for holidays and celebrations, it is without a doubt that Latino families will be gathered to celebrate together.
In short, whatever we do, whether moving for a new job or celebrating a birthday, it will always revolve around our family. This includes our dreams and aspirations.
The idea, then, that someone from the family will "go it alone" is quite rare and might feel, like Daniel Ortiz points out, as though we are separating ourselves from our identity and cultural heritage.
Instead, it is more likely that someone will pursue a goal with the idea of breaking down barriers for their extended family and opening up opportunities not just for them but for all those in their social circle.
The "American Dream" lives on
Latino optimism for the future is passed along to each generation. And Latinos of all ages continue to be tenacious and willing to continue to fight for a better future for their family.
Latinos not only believe in an "American Dream", but we are powering it. We are outpacing other groups in getting college and graduate degrees, taking higher-skilled jobs, starting businesses, and buying homes.
Furthermore, states with a higher density of Latinos are proven to do better than states with lower Latino populations in terms of homeownership, aggregate income, and civilian workforce.
Daniel Garza, Executive Director of the LIBRE Initiative, alluded to the fact that the Latino community will never give up on attaining greater opportunities, regardless of how it is labeled:
"The Hispanic community is not only resourceful, it’s also resilient – and we continue to dream great dreams," he says.
"But opportunity is not the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago. New barriers to opportunity have crippled small businesses and entrepreneurs all around the country. Yet still, our community is fighting and climbing those hurdles, and figuring out how to make a better future for themselves and their families."
Overall, Latinos are resilient humans who are always striving to live their best life for their families. Each country, culture, and, indeed person, has their own views on the promises and opportunities that the United States represents.
However, as Latinos continue to shape those opportunities and break down barriers for others, the idea that there is space for people of all backgrounds to make it by leaving our comfort zones and working hard is still alive and true.