Emilio Melero

College Writing 1
Dr Consilio


The American dream... What is it? What does it really mean? “I didn’t have that many dreams when I was young,” Rigo stated. He spoke of his thoughts at a time when he was a young kid growing up in a tiny ranch in Jalisco, Mexico. He takes a quick sip of his coffee and then continues. “I just wanted to live my life. Day by day.” Rigo sat on his comfiest, silkiest brown chair in the middle of his living room looking out the window into the sunny, blue sky. A ray of sunshine comes in from another window and brightens up the entire room alongside his face. He pauses for a moment with a meaningful look on his face. “My dream was to come to the United States... The American dream.” The room is quiet now, but it’s filled with Rigo’s thoughts and feelings. He pauses for a second time now. However, during this pause, he starts to sneak a smile. And then the smile starts to widen. “The American dream.”

Rigo Vargas. A seventy-five year old man who lived in Jalisco, Mexico from 1948 to 1967. He has lived quite a life and as he reminisces about his journeys, his face lights up with joy. “I was raised on a ranch,” Rigo says. “I was raised with cows and horses... a farm,” Rigo says while smiling. During this, he’s trying to hold in a laugh, but manages to slip in a little chuckle. “The townspeople, however, were very nice.

They were nice people around me. And when I was a child, I would work on the farm and go to school at Coastal Cierra,” Rigo states as he starts to get comfy on his chair. “I liked school. My favorite subject was mathematics because I was good at it.” Rigo then takes another sip of his coffee. This time, he finishes it.

School was one of the few things on Rigo’s mind when he was a kid. Working on the ranch and helping his mother was his main priority in his early years. Being the second oldest of his siblings made him feel like he needed to step up and help his family in any way he could.

He loves his parents so much. “When I was a little kid, my parents seemed fine. My daddy for most of his time came and worked in the United States. He would work on the farms in California. And my mom... she stayed at home,” Rigo explains. He pauses for a quick second and then starts to grin. “She stayed with twelve kids,” he says as he begins to laugh. Rigo has eleven other siblings. He states that he has two brothers and eight sisters. But he loved being the second oldest and the oldest of his brothers.

Memories. Rigo did have many good memories in Jalisco, Mexico. And as he’s trying to remember some good memories, his eyes shoot wide open. “I’ve had a lot of time on my hands so... I had a lot of girlfriends,” Rigo says as he shoots a wide smile at his wife, Lupe, who is in the other room. “I had three girlfriends,” Rigo says as now he is laughing. “I have a good memory. Going to the big city, Guadalajara, to see my grandpas,” Rigo adds on. Rigo was happy in the big city. It being his first time in Guadalajara, he loved seeing all the huge stores and buildings. It was something new. “I did want to move to the city though. I wanted to study math... but I didn’t have that many dreams when I was young. I just wanted to live my life. Day by day.” Rigo says and then all of a sudden he pauses. His face brightens up. “My dream was to come to the United States... The American dream.”

So life in Jalisco, Mexico seemed easy for Rigo. “Milking the cows and going to school,” Rigo says. Dealing with the cattle and all the animals was fun for him, but as he grew older he wanted to work for real. He wanted to do real work for a real job. “My first job was at a papermill in Joliet, Illinois.”

Eighteen years. Rigo lived in his small little ranch alongside eleven other siblings for eighteen years. Eighteen years of living in his home. Eighteen years of his life. Now, his father invites him to come work with him at a paper mill in Joliet, IL. Rigo immediately accepts the offer and automatically is excited. Being the age of eighteen, Rigo is ready for what the world has to offer. “October, 1967,” Rigo says as he’s beginning to stretch his arms up in the air. Rigo is not afraid during this transition in his life. “I had a permit to cross. A Visa.” The Mexican government at the time gave Rigo a Visa permit for him to go to the United States to work. And Rigo’s father, he couldn’t wait to work with his son. “He asked me to work with him at the Prairie State Paper Mill.”

It wasn’t just a job to Rigo though. It was a fresh, brand-new start. A brand-new opportunity. “I came from Mexico. And like everybody else, I was looking for a better life. The American dream,” Rigo says in a serious tone. The sun is now not on Rigo’s face anymore. Now, the light from the lamp that’s next to him is the only thing that’s brightening up the room. A light. A light just like Rigo was searching for when he first got his job. His light.

So now, Rigo is in Joliet, IL, working with his father. However, the first five years Rigo thought he would return home to Jalisco, Mexico... but he didn’t. Instead, he kept working. “This is no lie, when I was working, there were a lot of windows. Lots! And I will be looking out the windows and I felt like I was in a prison.” Rigo starts dying of laughter now, grabbing onto the armrest of his chair while smiling. Rigo went from milking cows and living at a ranch to working in an industrial job. “I wasn’t scared though. I never was. I did enjoy my job and I did have fun,” Rigo says making sure that his point is clear. “I only say that I felt like I was in a prison because when I was in the ranch, I was free. I was around animals and nature. It was nice.”

Not knowing English — that’s what scared Rigo. He understood it a little bit, but he couldn’t speak it. He was ultimately nervous about this whole new experience. “That was the one thing that truly made me nervous when arriving in the United States. I was scared. In my first job, my boss told me to go somewhere and I went the total opposite direction. I didn’t know,” Rigo explains while slipping in a little chuckle after his last statement.

Rigo wanted to stay in the US for as long as he could. He wanted a better life for himself. He wanted to try new things and explore what it meant to be living in the United States. “When I was in Mexico, I would be riding a donkey. And here, I’d be driving a car! An actual car! I bought my first car and I was so happy. A 1966 Buick. It was amazing,” Rigo says while stretching his arms and legs. “And with my siblings. I brought them over here slowly in my first five years here. It was much harder than when I arrived. We had to file immigration forms and everything. They all wanted to come to the United States though, so I was happy to help.”

“Going back to where I lived: Joliet. My father and I lived in an apartment on Jackson Street. And that is where I met my wife, Lupe Vargas. We lived in the same apartment complex and we just started talking. We became friends. I took her to the movies and I did everything with her. And what I liked about her? Well... everything,” Rigo explains.
The tiny, little apartment on Jackson Street sooner or later became the very spot where Rigo and Lupe got married, on the second floor of where they met. “1971. That was the year we got married and that was the year when I finally moved out to rent my first apartment with Lupe.” 2nd Avenue. That was where Rigo’s first apartment was. After their apartment, Rigo and Lupe rented a house on Logan Street in Joliet. They stayed there for about two years. This is where Rigo and Lupe had their first child, Gracia Vargas. Logan Street was close to Rigo’s work. “It was walking distance. It was right by the train tracks and it was amazing! I had no worries.”

After Logan Street, Rigo and Lupe moved to a house they bought on Collins Street in 1974. Again, in Joliet, Illinois. “During our time in Collins Street, I had my second child, Olivia Vargas, in 1976.” They stayed there for three years. “Oh, Collins Street was just wonderful. We had a blast... and my children, they loved it.”

“Essentially, all the houses we moved out of, I sold. I fixed them up and sold them. It was to make more money,” Rigo explains while getting energized by the thought of fixing houses. “But all the houses I rented, I didn’t make that much money off of them, because I rented them to family and friends,” Rigo states with a grin on his face.

“After I fixed up the house on Collins Street, we moved to Francis Street. And that is where Lupe and I had our last child, Crecensio Vargas. We named him after my daddy,” Rigo says while having a smile on his face. Rigo lived on Francis Street with his complete family for six years.

After six years, the Vargas family moved to Midland Avenue, which is on the west side of Joliet. This is where the “rich people” lived. “I felt like I was rich,” Rigo says while laughing hysterically with his wife, Lupe. “Three years... we were there for three years,” Rigo says while trying to remember anything else. “And then we moved back to Collins Street where ultimately Joliet Central bought the land where the house resided. Gave us a decent amount of money. After that, we moved here,” Rigo says while making a hand gesture indicating the house that we’re both in.

Parkrose, Illinois. That is where Rigo now lives with his wife, Lupe. The countless hours Rigo put into fixing houses and selling them helped Rigo pay off their forever home pretty quickly. “I had no financial stress when we came here. Nada,” Rigo says. “About thirty-one years, we had no financial trouble. I was home.”

Home. That’s all Rigo ever wanted. A home to stay in. A home to be free. A home to live a better life. “I love the United States. It’s my home. It’s my country. Of course, you have to work everyday to live better. On the ranch, if I didn’t want to work, I didn’t have to. However, in the United States, you have to keep working. That’s just how it is. And with my family, I’m happy. I’m happy for my children and my grandchildren. I’m happy that they get their education. Happy that they go to school. It’s beautiful. I feel happy. I feel blessed. Happy, healthy, and safe. I pray every night for my family. That’s the American Dream. Being happy is the American Dream. Being here at this moment is the American Dream. The journey. The memories. Happiness... that’s the American Dream. You have to be happy every day. To wake up with life. I feel like that. I open my eyes in the morning and I feel happy. This... this is the American Dream,” Rigo says while tears are rolling down his cheeks. “I’m happy.”

Back to Authors

Invisible line, width of the page Invisible line, width of the page