Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Case Study of An Immigrant: Abner Mares

It's only fair to start out with an obvious comment: Abner Mares did not come to the United States to pick fruit, wash dishes, clean someone's house, or work in a meat packing plant.

On the contrary, Abner Mares is a professional boxer who represented Mexico in the Olympics when he was an amateur. All the same, he is the perfect archetype of the Mexican immigrant to the US. He came to the States to get a job and to escape poverty. His mother brought him (along with his six siblings) to Hawaiian Gardens, CA (a mix of working class/lower middle class neighborhoods and barrio in otherwise affluent Orange County) and worked two jobs to support them. Mares became a boxer in hopes of something better for himself and his family. He was good enough to become an Olympian, and he has parlayed that into a professional career. He has overcome adversity (a detached retina suffered in the course of his career) and has persevered in his chosen profession. He has learned lessons of life and experience and has certainly not asked the United States to pay his tab. His mother worked two jobs to pay her tab. He has fought, literally, to pay his own.

Naturally, most Mexican immigrants to the United States are not gifted athletes with professional careers ahead of them. Nor is Mares' success in his chosen career guaranteed, anymore that of any other professional plying their trade in America. He has that in common with his countrymen. They have something in common with both him and his mother:

As I have said before, Mexicans come to the United States to work. More of them come illegally than not, because of the restrictions on immigration to the US from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Like Mares' mother, they work hard. Most of them use their earnings to start businesses that become part of and help to support the American economy. Their children, like Mares himself, seek to further develop their gifts and take advantage of the opportunities that comparative prosperity (the barrio in Hawaiian Gardens is still safer and more affluent than any barrio in Mexico) offers and strive to succeed beyond their parents. Mares grew up in Hawaiian Gardens, but now he lives in Norwalk, CA. While Norwalk is not Beverly Hills, it is a step up the ladder.

Of course, this is the history of America. Immigrants from foreign lands (whether they be debtors fleeing imprisonment, as the founders of Georgia; or religious refugees, as the founders of New England, Pennsylvania, and Maryland; or simply looking to make a buck, as the founders of Virginia and the Carolinas) have come to America and worked their asses off to make good. While more of them have failed to build the American Dream than have succeeded, they have nearly always succeeded in building a better life for their children. Whether or not they have failed to build the American Dream, they have always succeeded in helping to build America itself.

They do so to this day, even when they aren't here legally.

2 comments:

Leslie Parsley said...

Interesting piece. Sadly, the Mexican-American has become the N word of the 21st century. So undeserving.

Chris Richards said...

As a boxing fan, I read The Ring both in print and online fairly regularly and such human interest pieces on individual fighters are pretty common. Being from California, I'm familiar with towns like Hawaiian Gardens and Norwalk and I am able to read the irony in phrases like 'escaping poverty.' Everything is relative.

Illegal immigration is the nativist issue de jour, like the Chinese, the Italians, the Irish, and German Catholic issues were in days past.