The Utopian/Dystopian American Dream: Immigration and Labor in Latina/o Science Fiction

Histories of Dystopia

Daniel Venegas’s The Adventures of Don Chipote, or, When Parrots Breast-feed, depicts the American Dream as a utopia. However, through the experiences of Don Chipote, the underlying dystopian elements are revealed and evolve into full-fledged dystopias in the futures of the two science fiction texts. This is a story about a desperate man who leaves his beloved Mexican country in search of better opportunities in America. Don Chipote represents just one of the many Mexican immigrants during the early 20th century that decided to make this journey in order to escape the political turmoil after the Porfirio Diaz reign and during the Mexican Revolution. However, even before then, America had a stake in Mexico, in terms of investments and labor, after gaining almost half of its territory in 1848.

For the U.S., the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo supported the utopian vision of expanding the American frontier and empire[1], even if that meant the displacement of thousands in the Southwest. This treaty was a catalyst that led to subsequent decades of political unrest and war in Mexico. In David G. Gutiérrez’s Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity, he explains that this treaty offered few options for Mexicans, such as: “removing” themselves and going south of the newly created border, retaining their Mexican citizenship in the U.S. but now being identified as a “permanent alien,” or they could choose to become a U.S. citizen (17). Although this generated a lot of migration from Mexicans in the 19th century, it was the 20th century that experienced the greatest influx of Mexican immigrants into the U.S. In Douglas Monroy’s Rebirth: Mexican Los Angeles from the Great Migration to the Great Depression, he explains, “The greatest wave of migration north occurred in the 1920s, that decade followed the destruction and dislocation of the Revolution. It was a time when Mexico urgently needed its most able-bodied people to rebuild the war-torn nation” (19). The early twentieth century was an extremely tumultuous time for Mexico, and Porfirio Diaz’s privileging of wealthier classes over poor farm workers, led to the implementation of land policies that removed most small farmers from the land. In fact, Diaz helped the U.S.-Mexico’s capitalist and globalized relationship to blossom, specifically with the corporate desire for cheap labor and resources.

In Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945, George Sánchez explains that Porfirio Diaz “unintentionally made Mexico an economic appendage of the United States. By 1911, the United States received more of Mexico’s trade than all European nations combined, and between one-fourth and two-fifths of all American foreign investments went to Mexico” (22). Moreover, in the first three decades of the 20th century, Mexico lost 10% of its entire population due to the mass migrations (Monroy 94). Thus, this historical moment strengthens the concept of the U.S. as a utopian space where the American Dream could be attained. The U.S. offered an escape from the hardships facing Mexicans in their homeland. On the other hand, a wealth of literature was produced by Mexican authors in the form of corridos[2], which spoke to the struggles experienced in the U.S., particularly when crossing the border and living in the U.S. as an immigrant laborer. This literature contributed to the shifting perceptions that immigrants had about the American Dream and alluded to the dystopian elements of the U.S.
[1] My use of the term “American” is in the ideological sense. In this example, American frontier and empire is in reference to Manifest Destiny and expansionism in the U.S. 
[2] A corrido is a type of narrative song that could be read as poetry or sung. A couple of examples are: “The Immigrants” (“Los Enganchados” – “The Hooked Ones”) and “The Railroad”

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