The American Nightmare


In Signs Preceding the End of the World, written by Yuri Herrera, and later translated by Lisa Dillman, the reader follows the journey of Makina, a young woman who ventures to the United States from Mexico utilizing less than legal means. The novel continues to explore the various trials crossing the border entails, the dangers inherent in the endeavor. But along her journey to reunite with her brother, Makina bears witness to the very real nature of the United States and how much it fails to live up to its reputation.

The United States of America, home of the ‘American Dream’, where honest hard work and effort allows one to build any life you may desire. A place where all are treated equally and given the same opportunities for success, and treated with the respect everyone deserves. Everything that Makina experiences since crossing the border into the United States is a direct contradiction to these ideals.

Soon after her disappointing reunion with her brother, Makina is quickly accosted by a police officer who had forced a dozen of her fellow immigrants to kneel, though there is never an indication whether they are legal, or illegal. Yet towards the end of the encounter in an effort to disconcert the officer Makina writes a long traumatic excerpt that includes, “We who came to take your jobs, who dream of wiping your shit, who long to work all hours.”(99). This excerpt captures a great deal of what it is like to be an unwelcomed foreigner simply trying to eke out a living. It shows that they way they debase themselves in such humiliating ways is incredibly prevalent, a regular occurrence that they endure for the sake of supporting themselves and those that rely on them.

The officer in the aforementioned scene is also an example of blatant racism, a person of authority abusing their position to blatantly debase, and intimidate people simply because he dislikes them. These sorts of incidents, where racial prejudice has an influence on people with power has become commonplace in the United States where almost all that is required to see the effects of these prejudices is turn on the television.

Makina is never one to bend in the face of adversity, and her journey to the United States in Signs shows this. Her stoic endurance of all the collapsing ideals that America envisions for itself is a unique look into the tribulations that the reality of Americans, both foreign and domestic experience everyday.


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