Superman is quite possibly the most iconic superhero of all time (take that, Batman!), but in case you haven’t heard of him, here he is in a nutshell. Born on Krypton, Kal-El is sent to Earth by his parents to escape the destruction of his planet. He lands in Kansas where the Kents raise him as their own. He later discovers his powers and goes on to become one of the most powerful superheroes in the world. Many things have changed about him throughout the years, but his origin has stayed pretty much the same, and while he means many things to many people he is first and foremost the personification of the American Dream — an immigrant who comes to America and not only lives in peace, but truly thrives and makes a difference. I’m not going to get too political, I don’t want to talk about whether or not illegal immigration is OK, I just want to share how Superman impacted my life as an immigrant.
I don’t think I realized why Superman was such a big thing to me growing up until I got to be a little older, it was about much more than some crazy powerful dude running around saving people and kicking some serious a**, it was about a role model. Someone that even though he wasn’t native to this country grew up and became an exceptional citizen. He was different, and in some cases he was even treated differently because he wasn’t from here, but he didn’t let that stop him. You can say that there’s other cases in comic books that are similar, and you’d be right. The X-Men, Spider-man, Daredevil, they’re all outsiders, all made themselves into something, but to me there will never be a character as important as Kal-El of Krypton is.
A little background on me: I was born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. When I was four my parents brought me and my two year-old brother and sister to Riverside, California. Life was normal until I turned 9 and realized something, we were illegal, and didn’t have very many opportunities. All my hopes and dreams of growing up and having a nice life seemed to vanish. There simply didn’t seem to be any hope for an immigrant of average intelligence without any clear paths to citizenship.
I just about gave up after that, my grades dropped, and though I grew up being a really nerdy kid, I stopped embracing my nerdy side. It became my secret identity, one I didn’t get to show very often. Things just didn’t seem important if there was no future.
Hope Once More
Everything changed when the fire nation attacked. Seriously though things took a serious turn for the better in 2013: 1) I was approved to receive DACA. Giving me an opportunity, however temporary, to work and truly be have a normal life. 2) Man of Steel premiered. Let me clarify, I agree that the movie wasn’t great, but it wasn’t really about the movie, it was about Superman. Revisiting my nerdy side and seeing one of the most popular immigrants in the world hit the big screen again made me see things in a different light. I finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel.
Now a cynic might say it was DACA that saved me; and they’d probably be right, however I give just as much credit to Superman. He was a guiding light. Sure there were plenty of factors that also helped put me where I am today, but without that light none of it would have mattered.
it didn’t matter where we were born, Krypton or Mexico, we were american because we love this country and are willing to fight to improve it
“What’s the S stand for?” That question has been asked a lot, and the extremely cheesy response is; it means “hope”, I’ve known this practically all of my life but, it wasn’t until I experienced it first hand that I realized it really does. It brought hope to people during the great depression and WWII, and it brought hope back for me when I needed it most.
Without sounding overly dramatic I don’t really know where I’d be today if it weren’t for geek culture and most importantly Superman. He made me realize that at the end of the day it didn’t matter where we were born, Krypton or Mexico, we were american because we love this country and are willing to fight to improve it. Thanks to the Big Blue Boyscout I had something I didn’t have before, hope.
I won’t deny that there are plenty of immigrants that are role models and are, you know, actually real. The difference is Superman is larger than life, he’s an American icon. However fictional he may be, Superman became synonymous with America, even though he’s an immigrant, that’s what sets him apart.
Superman is much more than just a character to me, he’s a role model. He taught me there is hope for an immigrant. Even though you may have been born outside of it, you can make a name for yourself in this great country. You just have to keep fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way.