The Book of Unknown Americans


Cristina Henríquez

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The Book of Unknown Americans: Chapter 24: Micho Alvarez Summary & Analysis

Micho Alvarez, an immigrant from México, resents the racist attitudes toward Mexicans that he has encountered in the United States. He is tired of having racial slurs hurled in his direction and tired of the media claiming that all Mexicans are “gangbangers [and] drug dealers [who] want to destroy America.” Micho longs to be given the benefit of the doubt and to be accepted as a citizen—which he is. He calls immigrants “the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know,” and feels that Americans born in America are afraid to get to know immigrants and have no one left to hate. Micho says that people are crossing the border in such high numbers out of desperation, but also to try to “do something good in this country.” Micho himself works as a photographer for a group in Wilimington, Delaware which advocates for legislation reform for immigrants. He documents the suffering of his fellow immigrants. He sometimes feels that no progress is being made, but knows he must keep “fight[ing] for what [he] believe[s] in.”
Micho’s story represents a more intense disappointment with the American dream. Whereas characters like Benny, Nelia, and Gustavo suffered (and sometimes continue to suffer) disappointments but were ultimately able to carve out a space for themselves, Micho feels angry about the state of American attitudes toward immigrants, and angrier still at the apparent futility in trying to turn those attitudes around. Micho devotes himself to what he believes in, but still fears that because of the underlying fear and hatred Americans have towards immigrants, his actions will be in vain.
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