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Chasing the American Dream

Here are two stories from people who believed in their dreams and pursued them for the second time around

En español | The American Dream usually translates into a home and a car, a good education and a rewarding career. Achieving this dream often demands sacrifice and commitment, particularly for Latinos pursuing the dream for the second time at midlife.

Chasing the American Dream - Road sign with American Flag on it

— Photo by: Getty Images/Comstock

While the majority of Americans are losing faith in the American Dream, Latinos and immigrants remain more hopeful about their prospects than people of other backgrounds, according to 2010 research by the Xavier University Center for the Study of the American Dream. Some 37 percent of Hispanics, compared to 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites, express that optimism. Another study found that 61 percent of Hispanics, compared to 49 percent of non-Hispanic whites, say they have more opportunities to get ahead than their parents did. Latinos were also more likely to express confidence that they would get ahead financially in the next five years.

See also: Higher education resources for Hispanics only.

Here are two stories of Hispanics 50+ who believed in their dreams and pursued them — for the second time around.

Miguel Dorantes had already achieved one American Dream: He'd launched a successful roofing business after immigrating to the United States from Mexico in 1983. Then a surprising event pushed him to strive for even more.

After his wife's labor accelerated so quickly that there was no time to summon help, Dorantes delivered their daughter, with no medical training. "I thought to myself, 'I'm not too bad at this. I think I could become a good doctor,'" he recalls.

But the timing wasn't ideal for a career change. He and his wife, Linda — sweethearts since they attended high school together in Mexico City — had been married for five years and had started a family. Dorantes, then 31, had invested years in building his business in metropolitan Los Angeles. But Linda, whose bachelor's degree led her to specialize in working with students who are visually impaired, encouraged her husband to pursue his desire despite the sacrifices they'd have to make.

With a diploma, she says, "I felt so accomplished." She wanted her husband to have the same fulfilling experience she had in school: "He loves medicine. How could I deny him?"

Dorantes was accepted at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Mexicali, Mexico. The family — now with three daughters younger than 10 — moved to Calexico, right across the border in California, so the girls could attend U.S. schools. Linda worked full-time and took the lead in raising their children.

In Mexico, the costs of medical school are paid by the government, but Dorantes still needed to work weekend construction jobs in Los Angeles to support his family. This didn't strike him as unusual until he told a classmate, who remarked: "I don't know how you do this. I devote all the time I have to medicine. You have to find time to work, for your family, and you're doing well."

Next: How to become licensed in the United States. >>

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