U.S. films, hip hop inspire young immigrants' 'American dream'

TIJUANA, Mexico, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Jimmy Martinez, a 22-year old Salvadoran who has traveled north since October in a caravan of Central American migrants seeking to reach the United States, wears his shorts low and baggy and his hair slicked back like his favorite U.S. hip hop artists.

Like many other young Central Americans who have traveled thousands of miles to this Mexican city with hopes of crossing the border into California, he said U.S. music videos and Hollywood films have formed his vision of the American Dream.

"I want to go to Miami because it looks so nice in films like 'Fast and Furious'," said Martinez, who is fleeing street gangs in El Salvador, a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

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U.S. films, hip hop inspire young immigrants' 'American dream'
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U.S. films, hip hop inspire young immigrants' 'American dream'

Gerson Antonio Zaldivar, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, poses in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 24, 2018.

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Cristhy Alexandra Ortiz, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, poses in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 23, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Anyi Loan Mejia (2nd R), 22, from Honduras and (L-R) Damaris Alejandra Tejeda, 15, Nelson Reniery Ruiz Maradiaga, and Jairo David Veliz, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, pose in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 23, 2018. Loan Mejia said she dreamed of New York City's bright lights and skyscrapers, that she had seen in films. She said she believed "you can walk there without danger ... and that I could have things there I couldn't in Honduras, like a good job, wage and house, healthcare." 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Elmer Eduardo Bonilla Mendoza (L) and Carlos Alfredo Pavon Canelas, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, pose in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Cristian Joel Morales (L) and Victor David Reyes Madrid, migrants from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, pose in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 23, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Jimmy Omar Martinez, 22, a migrant from El Salvador, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, poses in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 23, 2018. Martinez said U.S. music videos and Hollywood films have formed his vision of the American Dream. "I want to go to Miami because it looks so nice in films like 'Fast and Furious'," he said. "I want to be there to have more security and a better future." 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Bessi Quintanilla, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, poses in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Juan Francisco Cruz, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, poses in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 24, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Kevin Jorge Gallardo Antunez, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, poses in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 23, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Damaris Alejandra Tejeda, 15, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, poses in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 23, 2018. Tejeda said she was wearing combat trousers and a sports t-shirt because that is how she imagined from films and the news media that Americans dress. "My dream is to have the opportunity there of studying and working," said Tejeda, who had to leave school early to help provide for her family. 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Yaderin Alexandra Banias, a migrant from Honduras, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, poses in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, November 23, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

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He said the gangs killed his father, uncle and cousin and threatened to come after him. After weeks of walking and hitching rides, he arrived in Tijuana. He has been working in construction but hopes to study to become a psychologist in the United States.

"I want to be there to have more security and a better future," he said.

Also sheltering in a squalid camp in Tijuana, Anyi Loan Mejia, 22, from Honduras, said she dreamed of New York City's bright lights and skyscrapers, that she had seen in films.

She said she believed "you can walk there without danger ... and that I could have things there I couldn't in Honduras, like a good job, wage and house, healthcare."

Wearing black leggings, a white t-shirt and crimson lipstick, Loan Mejia said she always liked to look her best, no matter how difficult her living conditions. Like many of the migrants in Tijuana, she is living in a tent.

All those interviewed for this story said they did not have enough food and water or facilities to go to the bathroom and wash. Still, Loan Mejia's friend Damaris Tejeda said she was wearing combat trousers and a sports t-shirt because that is how she imagined from films and the news media that Americans dress.

"My dream is to have the opportunity there of studying and working," said the 15-year old, who had to leave school early to help provide for her family.

All the young migrants agreed on one point: even if they did not manage to cross to the United States this time, they would never give up on their American dream.

"I would feel sad and defeated if I don't make it this time," said Martinez. "But I would come back and try again - as many times as necessary."

 (Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by David Gregorio)

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