Consorcio comes to America
The goal of Be American is the understanding of the reality of the immigrant life, which is filled with the difficulty of getting past the cultural barrier, and of getting acquainted with a new land’s idea of ignorance and literacy. Consorcio has a big problem: he wants to become an American. He soon finds out that the times and events will not agree with him. Consorcio comes to America and soon realizes the hard work involved in getting a better life in America. Right away, the reader is greeted with the problem of Consorcio’s illiteracy.
The story starts immediately with “it was not Consorcio’s fault”, referring to his inability no read or write English and his native dialect. Consorcio has to deal with his own ignorance, which showed in many little ways—he breaks plates because he only knew coconut shells and wooden utensils, sleeps on top of the sheets, does not want to eat bread and butter. Consorcio is typical of most immigrant peasants who came to America for a “better life”, knowing little but the provincial life full of farm work. Still, Consorcio is intent on becoming American, even buying books to hasten himself along his Americanization.
But when he asks his cousin how long he would have to wait, Consorcio is unpleasantly surprised when he discovers from his cousin that he needs to wait five years to become American. A year later, when his cousin visits him, Consorcio no longer has his books. He has sold them because he is unable to read, with no way to learn. Consorcio is now working as a baker’s assistant. Consorcio is still intent on becoming American, though. When his cousin suggests a free night school, he agrees to change his job so he can study.
Two years later his cousin returns to find Consorcio gone, with an untraceable address. But soon Consorcio sends his cousin boxes of fruit and produce of the company he works for. Consorcio’s and the cousin meet again after two years later, in Los Angeles. Consorcio is disappointed. He has no job, hasn’t finished school, and has become aware that he could not obtain American citizenship. More than two years later the cousin starts to receive letters (Consorcio has finally become literate). Consorcio starts to see the resolution of his dream of Americanization in his literacy.
Consorcio becomes American in a different way from what he has been desiring all the years of his stay in America. Consorcio begins a publication defending the rights of American and immigrant workers. Because of his activist literature, Consorcio experiences jail. Here we see that in spite of ongoing contradictions, Consorcio was, in a way, able to control his situation. For want of his American ideal, Consorcio fights with his words. He becomes American in this way, not officially, but in the American way of fighting for the ideal of liberty.
This is what America is all about—at least this is what we understand from the cousin—and he did what so many before him did, and that is fight for justice, and equality. Then war comes, and Consorcio’s “crusade” ends. Fifteen years after arriving on America, Consorcio dies. The (anti)climax comes with Consorcio’s death. Before his death, as his cousin says, he has become American in his own right. Still, he never really experiences the “good life” promised by America, and dies with the embers of his dream.