Living the American Dream
Hugo Solario’s journey into an unknown future in 1984
essay written by Spencer Verill
This paper is about a man named Hugo Solario. He immigrated here illegally in 1984. He has been working for a multi-million dollar business for over 10 years now and is a co-owner. Hugo is the perfect model for the American Dream because he went from nothing to having everything that someone wants in their life.
Hugo Solario is the perfect model of the “American Dream.” Hugo immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1984, when he was 17 years old. He was single, had nowhere to live, and didn’t know anyone that could help him. His early years in the United States years were tough but he fought through them and has become a successful business man. He now lives in Costa Mesa and is a co-owner of a multi-million dollar business. He has a wife and three children, two daughters and a son.
Before all this took place, Hugo was a young boy living on a farm in Mexico with no future ahead of him and this is where our story begins.
But, before all this took place, Hugo was just a young boy living on a farm in Mexico with no future ahead of him. He lived on a farm with his parents and his 5 siblings. The farm that Solario lived on was low income and had few luxuries. His family didn’t have enough money to build a house made out of cement or brick. Instead, the roof of their house was made out of hard cardboard and didn’t provide much shelter from the rain or wind. As he describes his house, he smiles saying, “I was five [or] six years old and it was raining hard and it was very windy, and the wind blew the roof off into the neighborhood.” Solario had to make his own toys because he didn’t receive many gifts for Christmas or his birthday. Every now and then he would get a basketball or even a soccer ball and that is what he and his friends would play with. Solario lived in a part of town that didn’t have electricity. Therefore, he didn’t have a television or any form of electronic games. He said many times during our interview that they had the “real fun” that most kids today do not experience because now children rely on computers and video game consoles for recreation. All the creativity that they had to have back in those days is gone now due to advancements in technology.
Solario has worked for as long as he can remember. He recalls a time when he was about seven years old that he had to work before school, “I would get up and my mom would send me, on a donkey going to a water hole with buckets where you get water in buckets and take the water back to the house. It was very scary at the time.”2
Later on when he was twelve years old, Hugo became more independent and started to grow into the man he is today. He worked at a drug store everyday to try and make money to help his parents out with their bills and expenses. He cleaned boxes, stacked shelves and helped sell medicine. The last bus that left for his house left at 9:30 P.M. and he got off at 9:00 P.M., so if he was late he had no way of getting home. After a while he started to live with the family that ran the drug store so that he didn’t have to make the trip everyday. He was introduced to many new things with this family, including a more American lifestyle and American products. He watched television and was introduced to electrical products for the first time. The family had United States passports so they were able travel to the United States to buy clothes and accessories that were not available in Mexico. These shopping trips allowed Solario to become more familiar with the American lifestyle and he began to be fond of it. This is when Solarioo decided that he wanted to try and immigrate into the United States so he could have a better future for himself and start a family.
Hugo decided at a young age that he wanted to immigrate to the United States. Most of the children that he grew up with in Mexico at the time wanted to do this because they didn’t see a future where they were living. As Hugo went through school, he wasn’t the best student. He never flunked any grades, he was never very focused in school. His best subject was math because he would always practice it with his father. For instance, he explained to me how he could use his fingers to do math instead of doing it on paper, “I felt like I was the best at math. I love math because I had the ability to do numbers on my hand rather than on paper. My dad had the same ability even though he didn’t go to school.”3 As he passed through the 6th grade, he saw that there was no future ahead of him in Mexico and Solario decided he needed to get a job so he could save money and achieve his goals of immigrating to America. This is when he started to work on at the drug store at the age of twelve. Solarioo worked at the drug store for five years before immigrating to the United States illegally.
When Hugo came into the United States, he was 17 and single. His life in Mexico wasn’t the best so all he could think about was how much better the United States must be. He said arrived he really didn’t have any expectations. According to him, “My expectations were really, none. I was just coming to try [out] another country completely different [from] where I was born in. And then there was like, you don’t know what the future is going to be. So it was just about trying anything that comes across. You have no idea what we were going to do for surviving and making our living so there was no expectations really.”4 To come into a new country, a completely new setting, without any financial or social support is a daunting task. It took courage and bravery for Solario to leave his family at the age of 17, to try to make his own living and to try and form the future that he had dreamed of since he was a young child.
In 1984, Solario immigrated to America illegally. He came across the border with his friend and a couple other people. All of them were not even old enough to work in the states legally. Solario had to lie down in a trunk with three other people in order to hide as they crossed the United States and Mexican border. As he stated, “I felt like I was a sardine in a can.”5 They were driving for over an hour, up and through the mountains to get to the border and the entire time he was sitting in the trunk of the car. He went to stretch his leg and he hits the light bulb in the trunk of the car and it started a fire. He said, “I have no idea how I bent over when we were squished in there and I was able to put the fire out with my bare hands. I don’t know how I did it.”5 Solario described this as the most stressful moment in his entire life.
When Solario arrived in the United States, his friend helped him get a job in the mail industry. He began working on February 19th and he didn’t get a day off until April 1st because it was his birthday. He had to work twelve hours a day, seven days a week until his first day off. After he got to know the owner of the business, he spoke with him to see if he would be willing to support him and submit his immigration papers. Seven years after he submitted his papers he officially became a resident in 1994. After 1994, he decided to apply for citizenship but first he had to learn the English language. He went to school with his wife to attend ESL classes that would eventually make him fluent in the English language. Solario worked from 5 P.M. to 5 A.M. and then got up at 8:30 A.M. and went to school to learn English. This was Hugo’s schedule for eight months before he became completely fluent. He and his wife had to do this to become a citizen because it is a citizenship requirement. In 2000, Hugo Solario became a US citizen and took one huge step into the future that he had dreamed of as a small child.
Solario was very impressed at how complex and big the cities were in the United States. He could not keep the look of amazement off his face when he explained his first day in Los Angeles, “Coming from a country where, you know, limitations are huge… to come directly into Los Angeles, it was huge. It was impressive.”6 The biggest change for him was learning to live by many rules because when he lived in Mexico, they weren’t any. For example, his farm didn’t have a set limit on his property line. He just had a huge field and people would walk across it and it wouldn’t matter because there was no set property line. In the United States, they are thousands of set rules and laws that society has to abide to for our society to function properly. One thing that he pointed out was, back in rural Mexico, there was no stop lights. So he even had to get used to how stop lights worked on the main streets of big cities.
The hardest thing for Hugo to get used to here was the food because he was so used to eating everything fresh. For example, he said that in Mexico, “Either you decided to kill the animal at home or you do not eat it. Nothing was frozen.”7 Whether it was fruit or meat, in Mexico, everything was fresh. Here, he realized that the culture is much different and that we eat a lot of food that is frozen. You can buy food from almost anywhere, then bring it home and freeze it to eat later.
Solario described many difficulties that he encountered along the way to becoming comfortable to American life. One of them is that Americans use their cars to go everywhere and without a car it is hard to survive in the United States. Also, he noticed that days here pass much faster than they did back in his home town. He says, “ ..the day seems to last a lot longer [in Mexico] but here in the States the days go much fast[er]. Basically you eat, sleep, and work.”8 It took Solario about a year to become comfortable with the American lifestyle, “The first year was the most difficult. Especially since I was single, you have to eat on the street fast food everyday because there is no place to cook and your mom is not here to cook for you.”9 After the first year, he became more familiar with how society worked and he began to make a steady income where he could get a home and have food on his table every day.
Solario got married in Santa Ana during 1986. He met his wife in his first job since immigrating into the United States. He got married for legal purposes in 1986 then traveled to Mexico to get married through the church. The one main thing that he remembers from his wedding day is the amount of people that attended the wedding. Cars and buses full of people lined the streets to get to his wedding at his hometown church in Mexico. When he was younger he used to sing in the Church’s choir for fun. Solario believes that the main thing to keep a happy and loving marriage is communication. Also, Solario relies on a lot of fate through religion to get through some of the hard times and problems that all family’s have to face. He says, “If I don’t have God in my house, my marriage is not going to work. If everything is materialism, it is not going to work. If God is not in your family, you will be fighting all the time. Sometimes, one person says everything and the other holds it in so you don’t create another problem, but that’s wrong because you are not communicating. Bottom line to succeed you have to communicate.” Also, Solario’s most influential person in his life, has been his wife. Ever since they have gotten married, she has helped him pursue the life that he wanted. She set up the goals that needed to be accomplished to have the future that they both wanted and in the long run, they succeeded together.
Solario and his family have adapted well to the American lifestyle and culture but still retain traditions that Solario used to celebrate when he was a child. One of these traditions was “The Three Kings”. Solario says, “Christmas and New Years wasn’t as big as January 6th is and that was called the Three Kings. That’s when we all got our presents and toys. That’s when I used to get my soccer ball. Also for us, we will celebrate big because a lot of family will come for the three days. It was holy week; literally almost the entire country doesn’t work that week. Parents and friends from far away will come and visit us for the party.”9 It is important for Solario to keep these ties with his former country because you never want to forget where you first came from. Solario can now pass this tradition down to his children when they grow up and they can pass it down to their children and so on. This keeps their Mexican culture alive in their family.
Solario’s children are all hard workers in school and they get very good grades. That is one of Solario’s most proud things as a parent. To give his children the education that he never had makes him very proud because they will have a future ahead of them. Another thing that he gained from American culture, is the way people belong to a political party. Hugo explained that he is conservative, “ because my beliefs do not allow me to [be] liberal. My religion, my morals, if you are liberal, your morals have to be very open. I do not feel like being Liberal is the right way. My morals are much higher than that.”10 However, he also said that if someone of the opposing party is a better candidate than the party he belongs to, than he would have to vote for them. He knows that if the right person for the job is in the other party, that it is his duty to vote for them so that they can get the job done.
Hugo Solario represents the vision of the “American Dream.” He came to the United States with absolutely nothing and now is a very successful man with a loving family. He is the co-owner of a business and has fulfilled his goals. The future he was looking forward to when he was a child has become reality. He has absolutely no regrets about leaving his homeland because of how good this country has been to him. America is where his live grew into what it is now and America gave him a job and a family. Hugo Solario is the “American Dream.”
1. Hugo Solario. Personal Interview. 27 May 2009. 4.
2. Solario. 27 May 2009. 6.
3. Solario. 27 May 2009. 6.
4. Solario. 26 May 2009. 1.
5. Solario. 27 May 2009. 12.
6. Solario. 26 May 2009. 2.
7. Solario. 26 May 2009. 2.
8. Solario. 26 May 2009. 3.
9. Solario. 26 May 2009. 2.
10. Solario. 27 May 2009. 7.
11. Solario. 27 May 2009. 12.