American Dream:  Antonio’s Story

As told to Linda McFarlin

Editor’s Note:

The American Dream! One of the things we love about living in Ecuador is meeting new people and hearing their unique stories.  Gary and I were in Ibarra shopping when a shiny Toyota Land Cruiser, Gary’s dream car, caught his eye.  As we were admiring the car, the owners came out of a store and we began to talk.  

We took an instant liking to them and they invited us to travel to Atacames, a small Ecuador beach town, to see some real estate their son had for sale.  Two days later we were bouncing over the pot-holed back roads from Ibarra to the northern coast of Ecuador--first to Esmeraldas and then south to Atacames.

This was the beginning of a relationship that expanded to include their son Antonio, who has lived for over a decade in the U.S.  His most recent dream involves returning to his home country to continue investing in Ecuador and building beach condos. 

Here's his story:


I Wasn’t Thinking of Getting Rich

My name is Antonio Alcivar and I am 34 years old.  After I graduated from high school I wanted to attend a military academy in Ecuador.  On the day I was supposed to register for the academy, we found out that a crucial document was missing.  The whole family made a frantic search for the paper but it was never found.  

A few days later, at the age of 20, my life's direction was changed forever.  I decided to go to the United States to follow the American dream. I wanted to make some money, buy a house.  I wasn’t thinking of getting rich. 

I ended up in the Bronx in New York City, alone with no job.  My mom had taught me how to wash dishes but I didn’t want to do that, so I got a job in construction, removing the trash.  The company paid me $40 a day.  

I learned how to build.  It was really hard work.

Then I said, "That’s enough.  Something has to change!"  I took six months to learn English by taking classes, reading books, meeting people, and watching television.

The Building Crew Wouldn’t Do 
What I Told Them to Do  

When I went back to construction, I was made a foreman because I could speak English and Spanish and there were so many Spanish workers.  But I was young and inexperienced and nobody would do what I told them.  

I had to fire half the crew and hire a new crew.  After that, things were better.

I heard about Amway and the promise of wealth.  I believed it.  Before long my down line grew to 20.  I started wearing a suit. 

Guys on the construction site would laugh at me, saying, “Here comes the millionaire.” My American dream was changing.  

Every day after work I would put on my suit at 4 p.m. and go to Amway meetings. Sometimes I would travel around the country to take seminars on how to sell.  I did well.  But then I had to make a choice between Amway and the construction business.  

I chose construction.  The day I quit Amway was the day I decided to dedicate all of my time to construction.

That was at the age of 23.  I made lots of mistakes.  I bid too low on several jobs, worked really hard and ended up with no money after the jobs were done.  

People really liked me but I stayed poor! I wondered if the American dream would pass me by.

I went to school, learned business skills and financial planning.  With a plan, people didn’t like me as much, but my life sure was getting better!  My American dream started becoming real.  

But I was still alone.  I asked myself, “What am I doing here and what is my purpose in life?”  

In those days I was searching for God and I found a Christian faith. I didn't agree with all the rules and decided to continue my search.

I studied the Mormons' teachings, then got baptized.  Next came the Muslims and studying the Koran.  They teach a strict faith and I did not agree with that either. 

I got enough religion to decide for myself that there is one God in all religions. People need to believe in something.  Religion gives people what they need in a specific moment but the price can be that you lose yourself.

I Give and the World Gives Back

I don’t live in the world, I make my world.  I am creative.  I give and the world gives back, like a big elastic band.  The more I give, the more I receive.  There is one God, a God for everyone, and that force is what I call "a strong energy."

After I learned how to get enough energy, I noticed that I could feel the energies of others, whether they were positive or negative.  The negative energy of others can get into your system.  This can cause you problems and you can have difficulties because of it. 

I started to be more selective about who was around me.  Most of the time I was alone.

When you are good with yourself, that is the most important thing in life.  Then you realize that each of us is here for a purpose.  There's something each of us must do.

You can learn to feel when someone really needs you and when they don’t.  Sometimes in  New York, people would come up to me on the street and ask me for money. Many times people would want this money to buy drugs.  

Other people would ask me for legitimate help.  I would take these people into a restaurant and tell them to order whatever they wanted to eat.

I have talked to my family about these things---about life, religion, energy.  When I ask them what they want, they tell me that peace is the most important thing. 

To find peace, the answer is Spirit.  I can give my parents or others the key, but they must open the door to Spirit themselves.  I can’t push them and I don’t.

The Stress of Life in New York Can Break You

New York City is a tough city where the system of work and life can break you if you are not open to change.  It's a tough place to learn about the American dream. 

One day when I was working on Honeywell Street in the Bronx I heard a couple of gun shots.  A tenant told me that another person had died in the street. 

In my experience, many immigrant couples get divorced after arriving in the United States because their lives lack the freedom of their home country.  Both work up to 15 hours each day, come home tired, and don’t talk to each other because they need their space.  

Then sometimes the wife starts thinking her husband is having an affair.  But the other woman is a job! 

I Listen to the Little Voice in My Head

During my commutes between construction sites I use the silence of my car to think.  I ponder life and let my thoughts speak. I listen to the "little voice in my head."  I think about my life, my questions, and the answers always come.

This struggle can make you strong and wise.  When I see a carpenter in action, smiling, doing it right. . . making a perfect wall or perfect door. . . I know he’s a professional.  I know that he loves his job.

I will be moving back to Ecuador to teach people what I have learned about the American dream.   There's a North American dream and a South American dream.  I can help those living in Ecuador to understand that the dream can be theirs, too.

Part of my own dream is to invest in Ecuador and develop real estate projects throughout my country.  I have been constructing my first beach condo in Atacames for two years. 

When I ran out of money, I stopped building for seven months, then started again. It is now complete.

I know life isn’t just about making money. It’s about being happy, being peaceful.  I know I can make money while I am focusing on happiness. 

As soon as I teach my two brothers, Alberto and Pablo, how to run my company in the U.S., I am going to spend more time in my beautiful country.   My brothers can continue to live the American dream in the U.S. while I am living it in Ecuador.  

Read further if you are interested in knowing more about the real estate buying process.

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