Expectations vs. Reality

"Freedom from Want" by Norman Rockwell

“Freedom from Want” by Norman Rockwell

Before coming to the United States, Orlando had an image of a picture “perfect” America in which “everyone [was] looking forward,” an America that modeled Norman Rockwell’s iconic paintings. “You saw the policemen helping people cross the street, you see a policeman now [he’s] beating the hell out of you, shooting at you… People are not sitting at the table eating their dinner like I see a family with the turkey and the people saying their prayer.”

Attending Methuen High was an eye-opening experience for Orlando, who at the time was shocked by the ignorance of his teachers and fellow students.  Teachers even asked him “if Caracas was the capital of Buenos Aires!”  How did he handle such frustrating ignorance, with a few games of course!  Orlando “felt that [he] knew more about [the U.S.] than they did about anything else outside of their environment.” In addition to an apparent lack of global knowledge, Orlando was surprised by the discrimination and poverty that he encountered in the United States.  Before coming here, he never heard about the socioeconomic troubles in the land of great opportunity.

Furthermore, Orlando did not understand the attitudes of many of the Latino migrants he encountered.  “If you want to progress in this country, you gotta try to adapt to the country, you’re either here or there. You cannot have a foot here and a foot there, you gotta be in the middle and settle on this side.”  He did not expect migrants to abandon their roots entirely, but he hoped more would have seized the opportunities they were afforded by coming to this country, instead of settling for the lowest positions they were given.  Too many “were reluctant to adapt because they were set in their ways, and that’s the way it was, and that’s the way they wanted to keep it.”