Swapping the American Dream for the Mexican Dream

Passing through the U.S. for a State-side International Living conference recently, I made a stop at a tailor shop to get some emergency repairs done.

The tailor turned out to be from Mexico…she’d moved with her mother and daughter to the U.S. some years ago to, as she put it, “get ahead.”

I told her I was currently living near Guadalajara, and she nearly cried.

“I love Guadalajara. My sister is planning to move there. I’m going to try to move there as soon as I can. I miss Mexico so much.”

I asked why she missed Mexico and why she’d moved to the U.S. to begin with.

She told me she had the same vision of the U.S. as many immigrants…a place where hard work could pay off in a better life.

“I thought a better life meant more money and more stuff. I’ve been here for 12 years,” she said, “and I’ve worked every day. Every day. And all I have to show for it is debt and a bad stomach.”

She said she’d had several operations for intestinal problems brought on by stress, and she told a painfully familiar story. As a small business owner, she self-insured. She worked so hard to pay her bills and keep her head above water that she ruined her health.

Once her medical problems started, she had to take time off work, which cost her money, which she needed all the more badly to cover her medical expenses due to her high deductible and an uncovered pre-existing condition.

The spiral of illness, bills, and lost work time and revenue took its toll in more stress and anxiety, perpetuating the cycle.

“The healthcare system in the U.S. is designed for one thing,” she said. “Once you’re in the system, it won’t let you go until it sucks every penny you have out of you. Then you die. That’s it. That’s all.”

“I thought I could come to America, work hard, and make something of myself, but that’s not what happens now. You can’t make enough money to get ahead, and even if you do…you get sick, you miss a payment on something, you miss a step, and you never get back on the ladder. You just try to hang on until your money gets sucked away and you can’t hang on anymore. Then there is nothing.”

“I’m going back,” she said. “I’m going back home. I won’t make as much money, but I won’t need as much, and I won’t worry as much. Life is better there, people work to live instead of living to work. You can live in Mexico without killing yourself. Does that make sense?”

I told her I knew exactly what she meant.

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