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Sharon Guillen
English 1S
V. Fong
02 March 2015
What is America?
“What is America?” is a question many people around the world ask themselves. Some
argue that America is this perfect country that is flooded with opportunities for everyone, while
others see it as a place that is just as flawed as countries around the world. Whether America is
seen as a perfect or flawed place, we can all agree its fundamentals are based on the American
Dream which is the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve
success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. Although this may seem
to concern to only a small group of immigrants, it should concern anyone who cares about
America’s reputation.
America is thought to be this country that is perfect and where opportunities are handed
out to you right away. It’s seen as a place where you won’t be judged at all. The harsh reality is
that we have to work hard for it nowadays; it takes dedication and perseverance to succeed here
in America. America is also a place where people can be very stereotypical and judgmental.
America has many factors that attribute to its positive aspect. Its educational system is
phenomenal and we are also home to the best/top colleges in the world. Schools such as Harvard
University, Stanford University, Princeton University, Yale University, Columbia University, and
University of Pennsylvania are among the many colleges that are desired by aspiring students
around the world. We offer free mandatory education from K-12 which I find very important.
This ensures that students will obtain the necessary skills to further their education in college and


careers. Other countries do not enforce general education which causes many children to
abandon school and start to work at a young age. My father who grew up in Nicaragua only went
up to 6th grade because no one encouraged him to stay in school instead they told him he needed
to work in order to make money. After he immigrated here he struggled because of his lack of
The most important aspect about America is that we have so much freedom. Robert
Barton, a United States Marine, said, “America is known for having good laws and everything.
For example in Iran women have to wear full clothing (hijab) and if they don’t they can be
punished severely such as having stones thrown at them. You come here to the U.S. and if that
happens I guarantee you’ll have twice as many people be angry to those who are punishing these
women.” People in the United States advocate for others, actually fight for what’s right, and
won’t be in trouble for it unlike in other countries where you’re forced to be silenced.

Almeida might have captured this image to
show how happy women from other religions can be. Here they have the choice to wear a hijab,
while like Robert mentioned in Middle Eastern countries they don’t. No one in the United States


is forced to join the military by certain age nor are we forced to be a certain religion/political
group. My father left Nicaragua not in pursuit of more income, but he fled because his life was
potentially in danger. During the 1960’s-1990’s was when the Nicaraguan Revolution was active,
boys as young as 12 were being forced to join the military to fight against those against the
Sandinista government. My father was being forced to recruit at the age of 14 and he didn’t want
to join because of two reasons: he was afraid to die due to the fact he had no military experience
at all and he was against the Sandinista government. He fled Nicaragua without turning back, he
came here and felt liberated. He saw that here everyone is free to believe what they want and
they won’t be shot for it. Prospero Guillen, my father, stated, “ I left Nicaragua with less than 20
dollars, fleeing for my life and freedom. I was not able to contact my family for a year.”
Nicaragua is one of the many countries that has oppressed their citizens and causes them to come
here because America is a safe haven for their beliefs/customs.
On the other hand, many negative issues can be seen in America. America is a place of
rampant individualism, which emphasizes personal freedoms above everything else. Although I
said this was a positive feature, it can also be negative because this engenders a sense of
entitlement and rudeness, which all stem from selfishness. We are also the creator of many
stereotypes and can be harshly judgmental towards people who aren’t from the U.S. It’s hard not
to do these things for some because they are not used to seeing so many cultures in one place.
Stereotypes such as “the migrants are taking our jobs are they don’t contribute to society” are
part of the many formed from our society today ( Minority groups such as
African-Americans are also perceived in a negative way due to our society. I believe stereotypes
are influenced through our media. Media portrays these groups in certain ways and it truly makes


it hard for those who belong to minority groups to walk out in America without being judged in a
way that is most likely not true.
The biggest issue I see in America is we have no benefits for immigrants. They leave
their countries in search of better lives, but they are in potentially worse situations here because
they are being exploited. They aren’t being paid correctly, they live their lives in fear that they
will be returned to their home countries. It takes years for them to become American Citizens
and not everyone has the opportunity to become one. The government makes it so hard on these
people to become part of this country filled with so many opportunities.
With living in America comes the peer pressure of “becoming” American. I see many
immigrants who stop doing things from their culture just because it’s not the American norm. In
the text “Immigrants” by Pat Mora he discusses how these families are changing their children.
“buy them blonde dolls that blink blue / eyes or a football and tiny cleats / before the
baby can even walk / speak to them in thick english / hallo, babee, hallo / whisper in Spanish or
Polish / when the babies sleep, whisper / in the dark parent bed, that dark / parent feer, “Will they
like / our boy, our girl our fine american / boy, our fine american girl?”
This text clearly shows that parents don’t want their children to express their culture fully; they
want them to act American so that they fit in more. Yes, America is the land of the free and
people come here to live a change, but due to the fact that they see everyone else acting
American they fall under the peer pressure of it. As the daughter of two Hispanic immigrants and
living in a white suburban neighborhood I fall under this pressure of trying to fit in. When I’m
driving down the streets in my neighborhood I find myself listening to English music only
because if I listen to Spanish music I feel like they will look at me as an outsider. Living in the
United States creates many to not express their culture fully because they do not want to be seen
as different. People just want to fit in and become accepted in American culture.


More and more people are beginning to see that starting a life in the United States is
harder than it seems. First of all, just coming to the US is a struggle because people abandon
their homes, spend their life savings, and put their lives at risk to accomplish crossing the border
hoping to achieve their dream. Once they are here they barely have money to support their
previous lifestyles, immigrants barely have enough to eat and buy bare essentials. They work
these under the table jobs just because they don’t have the rights to getting a real job that is paid
through the place with an official check. Some of these immigrants are educated with
bachelors/masters degrees but due to the fact that they came here illegally they are forced to
work jobs such as house cleaners or construction workers. Ruth Guillen, my mother, received a
Bachelor’s degree in Education in Nicaragua and was a teacher at an elementary school in her
small town, El Jicaro. She was paid about $100 dollars a month, so by the end of the year she
made only 1,200. According to Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for
elementary school teachers in the US was $53,400 (May 2012). She realized she was only
making enough to feed her family and decided to pursue coming to the US. When she came here
her first job was a house cleaner because in order to teach here in the United States she had to go
to school. Even after she got her papers she never decided to go to school to receive a Bachelor’s
degree in Education because she never had the time or money. She was too busy trying to
achieve the American Dream. Immigrants are starting to see the flaws the US has. They see how
difficult it is to live here due to lack of jobs for immigrants, overpopulation, and lack of benefits
for immigrants.


When I captured this picture of the VTA, I couldn’t help but
think how this is how a lot of immigrants get around town due to the fact they can’t afford a car
or get a license. It makes me feel grateful that I have the right to obtain a license. I know so
many people who are migrating to countries in Europe such as Spain because all they literally
have to do is on a plane. In Europe there are more jobs especially for women such as caregivers
for the elderly and the jobs pay very well. The process to become legal is easier over there unlike
here where there have only been few immigration laws. It’s almost impossible here unless you
get married to a citizen or have a child who is an American citizen. I believe if it were easier to
have benefits here even as an immigrant, it would make people want to come here. CNN states
there were 327,577 illegal immigrant apprehensions in 2011, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
This is the lowest number since 1972, when there were 321,326. According to the Department of
Homeland Security, the 2011 figure is a 53% drop from 2008, which it says indicates that fewer
people are trying to cross the border. This shows how people are giving up coming to pursue
their American Dream fantasy and going elsewhere.
As the daughter of two immigrants, I’m thankful they left their countries because they
gave me the opportunity to obtain a real education and to have more freedom than any other
country does. The U.S. does have its flaws, but overall it’s a country filled with many
opportunities for those who are willing to work hard and persevere. Growing up here I see that I
have the power to do anything because we have so much freedom and resources to do so. I do
see how much immigrants struggle here to obtain better lives as compared to other countries
elsewhere whose economy is booming.


Works Cited
Almeida, Monica A Mother Walk Home with Her Children After School in Dearborn,
Michigan, 2002. McQuade 215.
Barton, Robert Personal interview. 22 February 2015
Guillen, Prospero Personal interview. 25 February 2015.
Guillen, Sharon San Jose VTA Bus San Jose, 2015.
McQuade, Donald and Christine McQuade, eds. Seeing & Writing 4. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin’s 2010 Print. Mora, Pat Immigrants