The American Dream

A middle aged woman in a purple blouse, long black curly hair tied into a low ponytail on the back of her head stands in front of a sink filled with soapy water and several blue, plastic bowls. Sunlight filters in through lace curtains in front of her, casting bright shadows along the side of her face. This is Senior Photography major Yoana Medrano’s mother, washing dishes in her kitchen.

Medrano has been photographing her family since the 2016 spring semester for an assignment she received in her thesis class. The class was instructed to pick a project they felt passionate about or that inspired and drove them.

“It was around the time when Donald Trump was saying that Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the United States were all murderers and rapists,” Medrano recalls. “His words directly applied to me. I may not have swam across the river to get here, but someone in my family came over illegally at some point or another to get me to where I am today.”

Medrano was moved and angered that someone in a political position had accused her of being something she wasn’t.

“I thought about my mother and how she raised us, how much she sacrificed,” she says. “And, I thought about my father who’s worked six days a week his entire life since was 13. That’s what drove me to start photographing my family.”

The series of photographs feature Medrano’s family members living their daily lives. The photos come across as familiar and homey. In one, two men stand with their backs to the camera. They are standing outside, looking out into a vast, blue sky stretching above them. A little boy in an red shirt sits on one of the men’s shoulders. His head turns to the side, his eyes squint in the sunlight.

“It could be anyone’s mother, it could be anyone’s uncle. It could be you in those images,” Medrano says. “We’re just like everyone else.”

Medrano hopes her project helps her audience understand that Mexican Americans are still Americans despite having more than one cultural identity. Much like the world advertises, she believes America is a melting pot where anyone can go to work hard and get everything they want.

“My family has taken that literally,” Medrano says. “I am the product of the American dream.”