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American Me – Poem Essay

The poem American Me, written by Ninfa Miranda-Maloney, tells the story of a Mexican immigrant who comes to the United States to live the American dream. The author incorporates ethnic aspects with her use of Spanish words sprinkled in amongst the poem. With his “spit shine shoes” (Miranda-Maloney, n. d, line 10) and “brillantina-slick back hair” (Miranda-Maloney, n. d. , line 11), a picture is painted of a young man’s pride in himself as he begins the journey of a lifetime. This is a young man ready for his new life in America. The tone quickly changes, however, as he probably soon realizes that the dream is not what he had in mind.

In San Eli, where he “lived on thank yous and maybes” (Miranda-Maloney, n. d. , line 23), the reader gets the sense that the man was taken advantage of and worked hard for little compensation. The most powerful lines in the poem are “kissed your white land, broke my back, sweat a few tears for a piece of the dream” (Miranda-Maloney, n. d. , lines 27, 28, 29). The author has incorporated a racial aspect in the poem by showing referring to the white land. This is not his land, this is the “white land”. He is doing back breaking labor for “whites”, probably not what he expected as the young man full of hope chasing the American dream.

The author also includes social class aspects in this poem. The poem ends with the man, now here in the United States for fifty years, still smelling the onions on his fingertips. (Miranda-Maloney, n. d. ) This leads me to believe the man is still working in the onion fields fifty years after arriving in the United States. A generalization can be made that a person from a lower social class would need to continue to work past retirement age to make ends meet. I grew up in a poor neighborhood in California. My community included many immigrants here in the United States both illegally and legally.

The immigrants I have known throughout my life are generally proud Americans, though there are the few that grow bitter because their American ideals and dreams have not been met. They work hard doing difficult work for little money and not much appreciation. While I don’t personally identify with the poem, I am able to sympathize with the character as he could represent a number of people I know. My grandmother emigrated to California before my mother was born. She came to the States with the dream of giving her children a better life than the one they’d likely have in El Salvador.

Throughout my life, she’s told me the stories of moving here and settling the family in the area. It was difficult for her, working many hours as a maid, but she did it for the benefit of her children. Many times throughout her first few years in the states, she considering going back home. The dream she envisioned was hardly her reality at first. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to go to a different country where you don’t speak the language or know the culture but it happens regularly in this country. At the end of the day, the United States is a country made up of immigrants, most of which are just chasing the dream as well.


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