The World of ALIEN
(21st Century, California)
The World of ALIEN
(21st Century, California)
Today, the Hispanic population is the largest racial minority in the US, accounting for 17 percent of the total population. Around three quarters of Hispanic immigrants in the US today have permanent immigrant visas. The remaining quarter of Hispanic immigrants, about 11 million people, face the threat of deportation every day. This palpable fear causes those without documentation to enter the workforce without protection, often working for far less than minimum wage, without time off, or in unsafe working conditions. This threat makes it possible for employers to ignore labor laws without fear of consequence. Like the Irish of the 1800s, immigrants today fill some of the most dangerous jobs in our country, like meatpacking plants, which are ranked first in a list of jobs that violate human and worker rights.
The hardships Latinos endure extend into every factor of life. In our own city of Nashville, one particular undocumented pregnant woman was arrested for driving without a license--a crime normally handled with a citation. Soon after being detained, she went into labor and was handcuffed to the bed at the hospital, by order of the police officer. She begged the officer, “Please let me be free -- at least one hand.” He refused to allow her this human right. Soon after birth, she was returned to jail without her baby or a breast pump, and subsequently developed a painful infection. This kind of dehumanizing treatment breaks both body and spirit.
With the rising concern over undocumented immigrants, there have been greater incidences of law enforcement agents racially profiling, harassing, and brutalizing Hispanic individuals. These cases have not only involved undocumented immigrants, but also Hispanic Americans and permanent legal residents. A Mexican woman from New Haven, Connecticut watched police officers write down the license plates of individuals from her neighborhood as they went in and out of the grocery store. After several violent incidents between police officers and Latinos in her city including kicking, punching, pushing to the ground and smashing heads against the wall, she lamented: “We come here to work and have a family. We pay taxes, we pay mortgages. This is our city. I’m a citizen here; my kids are citizens here.”
With a single candle burning in the room, Hernando and Beatrice Reyes sat their 4 boys down and talked to them about their future. The oldest, Sergio, was just 17 years old, and the youngest, Carlos, was 10. Hernando told them that the only future they had in Mexico would break their backs, keep them from learning in school, and demoralize their hopes. He then explained why over the past few years he and Beatrice were working so much. With the money they made, he told them how later that night transportation was coming for them and in about a month they would be living in California. He told them this was their chance, to have life.
The journey was harder than any of the boys could've imagined. Multiple sleepless nights. Days without food. Dehydration and hunger. They were led on a route that put them on unpredictable terrain with terrible drops, so as to mask their visibility. Further precautions required they move at night. Sergio, the eldest gave his strength over to his youngest brother Carlos, by carrying him on his back for multiple miles at a time. Young Santiago tried to do his part by carrying Carlos' limited luggage. The second born, Alejandro, was left with the responsibility to lead their line.
It was an especially dark night. There were clouds covering the light of the moon, and the coyote leading the group of about 20 decided they could gain a lot of ground by moving quickly. Moving through a windy mountainous path, Alejandro misstepped and fell off the ledge some 40 feet. The mountain echoed the thud of a body hitting rock. Sergio cried out, set Carlos on the ground and ran down the rocky path to where he found his brother, dead. The border crossing coyote wanted to keep moving so he told Sergio he had 20 minutes. By himself, he stacked rocks on top of his brother, formed a cross out of some sticks, and determined in his soul that he would never let anything happen to any of his family again.
Santiago, Yessenia, Angie & Snoopy
Santiago, Yessenia, Angie & Snoopy
Santiago arrived in California when he was 13 years old. An incredibly social and likable guy, he made a lot of friends at the Jr. High he attended. Remembering the words of his parents, "a chance to have life," he did his best to make peace with everyone and do what was necessary, even if that meant having to tolerate the insults that came with his accent, or lack of education. For 4 months he and his brothers were able to live with some distant cousins while they transitioned to an apartment of their own. His older brother, Sergio, forewent school and decided he would work two jobs; picking at the ranch by day, and working in the kitchen at night. Depending on his quick wits and his sociability, Santi would drop out of school when he noticed his brother routinely exhausted, so that he too could help out with all the expenses of living in the land of the free. Santiago remained consistent in his optimism to see them have life.
Yessenia met Santi in Jr. High. He would always make her laugh. She especially loved his antics in avoiding answers to questions he didn't know the answer to in class - his witty comments got everyone else laughing, including the teacher. She could see through the fun loving exterior of a guy who seemed so carefree, into a young man with a lot potential to lead, but no one to nurture it. When she learned he had no parents, and his older brother worked all the time, she decided she would be Santi's balance in life.
After Yessenia returned from community college, at 21 years old she and Santiago were wed. He promised her she would always laugh, and that her life would always have adventure. She promised to laugh at him, and to always support him, especially as he grew into the man she saw he could be. She just didn't know how to get him there.
Sergio, Dolores, Selena & Alejandro
Sergio, Dolores, Selena & Alejandro
Sergio was never the same after he tied those sticks together in the form of a cross and put it in the ground next to his younger brother. Whatever hopes he had for a new world, or bright future were narrowed into a singular vision to see his brothers, and the future family he would have, be safe.
As soon as he arrived in California at 17, he picked up two jobs, working over 80 hours a week, and stopped talking. After a couple years of incredible toil, he found some comfort in the bottle and became an alcoholic. He hid this addiction from his brothers for years until he met Dolores.
Dolores knew a drunk when she saw one. After all, as a second generation immigrant, she saw the toll such a life took on a person. Her father was deported after being pulled over for drunk driving. Her family never heard from him again. A dishwasher, she worked nights at the restaurant where she met Sergio who at the time was doing janitorial services. She saw her father in him, and wanted to stop him from taking the path that she knew led her family into so much pain. Sergio had no time for a relationship, but working together so often, he found himself in love. Dolores' love for Sergio became a medicine to ease the guilt he felt for the loss of his brother and a release from the bottle. When he announced to his brothers he was going to marry Dolores, it was the first time they had seen him smile this side of the border.
Selena just started high school. She's already learned to navigate the complexities of the teenage social environment. For example, she tells her friends that her Dad is a chef, and her Mom is a environmental specialist.
Selena has no accent, lightens her hair, and likes Taylor Swift. She also pronounces her last name as "Ray-ez."
She loves her parents, but isn't sure others will understand her family's situation. She's seen too often how the other kids get treated in her situation, and she doesn't want that. At all.
Alex was the redemptive son of his father, who named him after his brother Alejandro.
Alex loves soccer, and is especially fond of his uncle "Carl" who he sees as a good role model for his family, because he's "cool."
Just starting middle school, Alex is a smart kid who likes to listen in on adult conversations, and often tries to sip their beer at parties. Recently uncle Carl got him to read the poetry of Oscar Wilde, and listen to Rage Against the Machine. Alex liked the drums in the music.
Carlos is the most educated of the Reyes boys. Having recently graduated from UCLA, he is now in a grad program at USC learning how to advocate for the underserved - particularly Latinos. He sees the solution to their struggle is to implement artistic and cultural education programs that will bridge their assimilation into Americans. Starting the program in high schools, would reasonably give them opportunities to learn English and history, while maintaining their roots in cultural and artistic expressions that are distinctively "Latino."
He considers himself the cultural liaison for his family and friends. Having the most experience with "white people," he believes he knows how to best move in and out of both cultures. On the one hand he sees himself as a protector of the Latino's dignity. On the other hand, he sees himself as the leader of a cultural revolution where people will be able to see the value of Latinos and inevitably they will have more respectful positions in society, and be able contributors to its betterment.
Practically, Carlos is fascinated by white culture as he's come to learn his Latino family and friends as simple minded and superstitious. Lately he's been interested in getting to know the new girl at work who is rumored to be the owner's niece, Emily O'Neil.
As time passes, the O'Neils continue to move further and further away from their history. Granpa thinks they have amnesia and only remember a version of history that affirms their present. When they hear that from Granpa, they just hear the babble of a man who is moving into senility.
Though their ancestors emigrated from Ireland to New York in the late 19th century only to endure incredible amounts of suffering based upon racism and discrimination, the O'Neils' present success overshadows that past and only an unwritten future of great possibilities remains as their concern.
Though Cassidy was recently divorced, her brothers James and Sean are finding incredible success with Sean's recent business venture looking to go multi-national, and James getting ready to open a replica of their great grandfather's pub in New York.
James & Shannon
James & Shannon
James O'Neil came into notoriety as the best selling writer of the fiction novel series called "Green Dream." The books were about a family who came from "Greenlandia" and migrated to "Bamerica" and experienced incredible success despite the attack of dragons that the heroes of course slayed. The book was noted as "a hope piece for this generation of immigrants." There's talks of it being turned into a mini series television event.
After a separation from his wife that no one will talk about, a nostalgic desire to re-experience his days as a restaurant manager, and increasing desire for control, led James to commence his new project: "O'Neil's Irish Pub and Restaurant."
The third week of July, he's flying in all of the family to celebrate the opening event of the restaurant. He's sent out multiple .mp3's of a song he wants everyone to sing for Granpa who he is designating as the guest of honor. In addition to those .mp3's, James has been discussing with his sister Cassidy about Granpa's future. He's hoping that as a family they can talk about it soon.
Shannon loves her dad, but is often concerned for the stress levels he carries. She knows how much his separation from her mom affected him, but he won't talk about it.
She's finishing up a degree in Intercultural Studies at USC, with a concentration in Latino History. She tries to talk to her dad about it, and although he nods and affirms she knows he's barely listening.
Growing up with the "Green Dream" series gave Shannon a myth to hold onto about her family's history, but lately she's been asking questions. Her job at the restaurant, and visits with Granpa, have been leading her to reexamine whether or not she is who she wants to be.
Sean & Nora
Sean & Nora
Sean is ready to come out from James' shadow. He is after all the one who gave him the idea for "Green Dreams," but he never even got a footnote for it. That's alright though, because James has recently invested into his company that is about to go multi-national in partnership with a British immigrant who has recently relocated to San Jose, from Colorado; Brenton Bishop.
Over the years Sean has tried many business ventures, but this will be the first time he climbs higher on the ladder than the junior associate positions he's had in the past. Brenton has been incredibly successful and gave Sean a million dollar buy in (thanks for the loan big bro). Sean feels very confident he is about to discover success on his own.
Sean has an incredible ability to woo (winning others over) everyone he meets, but he's so terribly self-interested that he gets bored whenever something is not about him. Nora made him start seeing a shrink because the issues seemed to be growing. The therapist diagnosed him with adult ADHD and this not only made him a bigger fan of Adam Levine than he already was, but it gave a him a reason to act out all the more; not to mention the benefits he's discovered from the adderall that have taken him to new levels on Game Center.
Nora met Sean in college. He won her over with his optimism and confidence. He called her his Jackie, and she called him Sean, because he wouldn't let her call him anything else. Her younger brother Finn introduced them to each other, telling Sean that his sister was the perfect mate to advance his goals; valedictorian, homecoming queen, and television journalism major. Sean just thought she was hot and everything else sounded good too.
It's been years since they've felt any chemistry in their relationship. Lately, Nora wonders if they ever had any chemistry at all. She and her daughter found every security they needed with Sean. Emily is now 20 years old and an undergrad at USC, lacking nothing. Nora feels she has everything, but love.
Finn made a million dollars at 23 years old when he and some college buddies figured out a way to get people use the internet to auction off their end of the year college furniture and books. A company that would call themselves "E-bay" bought the idea from them and he hasn't worked a job since.
Over the last decade Finn has been grunge, goth, bro, a hipster, and most recently some kind of hybrid where PacSun meets a Minnesota winter. His therapist tells him that he is controlled by the approval of others and its dwarfing his development. He tells his therapist that her opinion puts a lot of pressure on him. It's not going well.
On new medication, he's back to making fun of his older sister Nora and is beginning to enjoy a social life again. He's looking forward to the family event in July and has been rehearsing all of his social responses to any foreseeable questions as advised by his therapist.
Connor is 14 years younger the next youngest in the family, Sean. This gap between his siblings was not only in years, but also in ideals. He doesn't really feel like an O'Neil and he really doesn't know his brothers. It wasn't until his older sister Cassidy's recent divorce that she and he grew in their relationship. It turned out that they were a lot alike and she shared his concerns about their family.
Recent visits with Cassidy have put him in more contact with Granpa O'Neil, and listening to Granpa's stories have been doing something in his heart. He's not sure what change is happening but he knows that as he's getting older, these changes may define how he understands family.
Cassidy was married to Brady for 18 years. Both lawyers, she worked pro-bono in the medical network, while Brady was a high profile corporate attorney and traveled a lot.
After years of tension, Brady left Cassidy to be with another woman on the other side of the country who gave him the kids she never could. Early in their marriage they tried multiple times, but unto multiple miscarriages. She felt Brady resented her ever since.
Recently Granpa O'Neil moved in with Cassidy under the guise he needed help, but really he couldn't stand her having to be all alone in the little apartment she moved into. Too hurt by recent events she remained unemployed and stayed at home reading. Granpa has a hope to set her up with someone new before he passes, but he really doesn't like any of the guys James and Sean are friends with.
Granpa O'Neil is the grandson of Jimmy Dolan and the son of Jimmy Jr. After World War II, sometime in the 50's he moved from Oklahoma with his children to California so they could start over. His kids founds lots of opportunities in the Golden State and they quickly began to turn off their father's voice which was calling them to continue what Granpa called "the narrative of the spirit."
In the 70's, his grandkids James, Sean and Cassidy lost their father in the Vietnam War. He tried to assume a fatherly role for them, but their mother quickly remarried a man who had progressive ideas about the American dream and entrepreneurship, and could care less for their roots.
The story of the Dolans would experience its most definitive mangling when Granpa read James' version of it in his awful book series "Green Dreams." He couldn't believe his grandfather's incredible story could be shrinkwrapped into such a marketable piece of garbage that was more bollocks than truth.
Granpa is losing hope that the narrative of the spirit will continue. He isn't sure that any songs of freedom will be sung in the family again. He's not looking forward to the family event in July, but he's going to be his jovial self and hope for the best, as he always does. Recent conversations with Connor, Cassidy and Shannon are giving the strength to hold on.
Alma is from El Salvador, but everyone thinks she's Mexican. She crossed the border with her father when she was a teenager, but he was deported and later died for unknown reasons. Her disabled mother was left to raise her kids in El Salvador with no job, so Alma, a straight-A honor student, dropped out of school to work full time. Bi-weekly she sends most of her money to support her family.
Alma's name means soul, and she embodies that kind of passion, but has never been given the opportunity to express it. A pretty girl, she's often noticed for her looks, but has above average intelligence and excels in communications. She particularly has a desire to advocate on behalf of immigrants who have no voice in the world they live in. Her legal status threatens that dream.
Recently she and a group of friends started working at "O'Neils Irish Pub and Restaurant," where she's a hostess. Her childhood friend Carlos, whom she hasn't seen since he went off to college, also works there. She has always admired his desire to also represent those without a voice. She's excited to get to know him again.
Angel hasn't heard from her husband in years. She continues to develop a storyline for her kids that makes their dad sound like a hero, when in reality she has no idea where he is. Whether he is dead or alive, in the country or out.
When he disappeared, Angel had to learn to take care of herself and her kids. Being illiterate made it almost impossible to get a job. She cried out to God every day to help her learn to read, and in time she taught herself to fill out an application, and even learn enough English to do an interview.
A few years ago, she met Sergio at her first job at local restaurant where he taught her to cook. She and Dolores became very close friends and the Reyes' consider her family. She longs for her kids to have it better than her, and this puts her in the position of picking up every overtime shift she can. She's not sure what's more valuable - the provision she makes, or the presence she has with her kids.
Guerro & Estefania
Guerro & Estefania
Guerro got his nickname because he looks like a white guy. Really, Johnny's half white. His mother Clara doesn't talk about it, but the story he learned was that his white father told his parents about his love for Clara, that she was pregnant, and that she was Mexican. When they heard this, they sent a $1,000 check to Clara and sent their son to the east coast for college.
Guerro never learned his dad's name, but he considers him a coward and has no desire to find him. Johnny did pretty well in school, was very popular, and went on to quarterback for his high school football team. There was even talk about him being recruited to UCLA, but he injured his shoulder his senior year and dropped out.
Estefania crossed the border just a few years ago with her newlywed husband. About 6 months ago the slaughter house he was working in was raided and he was taken by immigration and deported. He didn't know his wife was pregnant with his child. She hasn't heard from him since. A somewhat reliable source has told her he died trying to return.
Guerro took notice of Stef the first day he saw her in the dish room at O'Neils for training. Perhaps it was his own history of having a father who abandoned him as a child, or watching his own single mother raise a child in a hostile world, but love at first sight captivated him, and compassion for Stef poured out of his soul. He began telling her that he would marry her, and raise the baby with her.
The trauma of recent events and the fear of the consequences related to her illegal status has kept Stef from entertaining any of Guerro's notions. However, just a few weeks into their relationship, Guerro had the kitchen crew meet him in the park while he was on a date with Stef. Santiago resided over a spontaneous marriage ceremony and though Estefania went along with the pageantry, she never considered the marriage to be legitimate because as an illegal citizen the marriage would be illegitimate as well. She still has nightmares she'll be deported. She hopes she can stay around long enough to have the baby in the country, and the baby get citizenship.
Simon won the "lottery" (a chance opportunity to be selected to receive a green card) to work in the United States. An East African from Uganda, he graduated with honors in business administration from the country's top university. Esteemed by his friends and colleagues in his country of origin he never imagined the difficulty he would encounter moving to America.
Thinking he could get a job in business management rather easily, he applied all over the county and got no call backs. He finally found a job doing the overnight shift of janitorial work at a restaurant where he met Jessie, Peyton and Amelio. They became his only friends.
Simon's whole life was orchestrated for him to get this chance to move to America, get the American dream, and inevitably lift his family up out of poverty in Africa. He typically sends his family all the money he can, which leaves him with very little on his side of things. He doesn't tell his family how much he struggles, or that he doesn't own a car, that all the education they sacrificed for him to get carries no weight in his new world, or that he could never have a family of his own due to the struggle.
Recently walking to catch the late night bus, he was stopped by some officers who asked for his ID of which he had forgotten at home. They immediately cuffed him, took him to the station, strip searched him, put him in a line up and jailed him over night. They released him the next day offering him no answers to his questions. That night Simon learned that not only was this place not a dream, but it could be a nightmare.
Jessie's parents divorced when she was 3 and her biological father left town never to be heard of again. Her mother was a social worker and raised Jessie in a low income, racially diverse neighborhood where she taught her daughter the beauty of diversity.
After cheering in high school, she went on to college and emerged as the life of the party anywhere she went. To supplement her scholarships, she worked as a server to pay the bills. It was at that college job where she met James O'Neil who was managing the same restaurant that Simon, Amelio and Peyton were working. She never took James' bi-polar nature seriously, so James took a liking to her and she won over his trust.
It was also during that time that her mother died of breast cancer and it plunged her into a phase of intense partying. One night she had too much and Amelio tried to get her to go home and sleep it off, but she refused. This led to the birth of her daughter and changed the course of her life. She dropped out of college and went to work at the restaurant full time.
When James decided to open "O'Neils Irish Pub and Restaurant" he asked Jessie to come on as the head waitress. She accepted on the condition that she could choose the work crew. James agreed, but told her he needed positions for his daughter and his niece, and also asked her to "keep it cheap," accompanied by a wink.
So Jessie asked Simon to manage the dining area and in turn, further his American dream. She asked Peyton to run the bar, and Amelio to head up the kitchen. She also had a good friend from high school whose nickname was Guerro, and she asked him to join the crew as the head dishwasher. Finally, she had recently met a friend of Amelio who was a server at another restaurant, Santiago. She asked him to come on and be the head waiter. Santiago told her of a few others who could fill in the remaining spots, and that's how the crew was put together.
Amelio was a standout high school soccer player, but it didn't matter. He couldn't move forward in the sport as an illegal citizen, and his mother needed his help with the provisions for his younger siblings. So Amelio went straight to work.
A friend of his mother's gave him a chance to work on a overnight janitorial crew and during the day he picked in the fields. His family was from Argentina so he looked white, but as soon as people started speaking to him in English, and he couldn't respond appropriately, he decided it was best to just all around avoid the situation as to not embarrass himself. He removed himself from any situation where he had to speak English. This wasn't hard as any place he could get work, was a place where only Latinos would work anyway.
Jessie was the first English speaker that made him feel okay about his inability to speak English. Simon didn't speak so well either, so Amelio got a kick out of his tenacity to keep trying.
Peyton and Amelio played soccer together in high school. He was the only white guy on an all Latino team.
Growing up down the street from Jessie, he too became early acquainted with racial diversity and often people would think he was hispanic because of his style.
Nothing was more important to Peyton than his friends, so his life became about being wherever they were. Because he was white, he did notice that he would most often get favor over and above his Latino friends for just the way he looked.
Even at work he noticed that anytime a white person in authority wanted to say something condescending to the staff, they would look at him for approval. This terribly upset him, but the only time he spoke up, he was called "white trash" and told to shut up.
Peyton considers Amelio, Simon and Jessie family, and he's really excited that they are all working together again.
Franco is a good times guy. He went to high school with Santiago and dropped out the same time he did to go work with his dad as a plumber. Franco was born in California to illegal immigrants, but subsequently is a citizen.
Prior to going to work with his dad, he started getting in trouble at school and with the cops for stealing, loitering and graffiti. He was never caught for most of what he did, but a few years into his work as a plumber, he was called into court where he had a choice of jail or military service. He ended up going to Iraq for 27 months.
He returned with PTSD and was mostly dysfunctional and incapable of keeping a job. Santiago got him work as the maintenance guy at "O'Neils" and he lives at Santi's house during this time of healing.