How do Candido and America contribute to or challenge their new discourse community in "The Tortilla Curtain"? How does the U.S. impact them?

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Cándido and América, like many immigrants in the United States, contribute to the American economy via blue-collar jobs. They contribute economically, or at least try to despite abusive employers, but are still physically, culturally and socioeconomically outside of the bounty of the American economy. For instance, Cándido and América live as squatters in the woods outside a wealthy subdivision in Southern California.

Like the coyotes that Delaney and Kyra stigmatize and see as threats to their civilized life, Cándido and América are survivalist "hunters" who contribute to their ecosystem, but are seen as dangerous entities that need to be monitored and policed.

However, Cándido and América face their own predators. Fellow expats within their own community take advantage of their vulnerabilities rather than practice solidarity and altruism. The theme of surviving in a predatory system—that is rooted in perversions and flaws of American-style capitalism—is recurring throughout T. Coraghessan Boyle’s novel.

Within the context of this predatory system, a social food chain or hierarchy comes to light: the affluent white Americans develop gated communities to physically and socially buffer them from coyotes and undocumented migrants, while the migrants themselves are afraid of exploiters within their own community and immigration agents.

Despite the challenges Cándido and América face throughout the novel, they contribute to the illusion of the American Dream. For instance, the laborers help maintain the beautiful expensive mansions and subdivisions that affluent Americans live in.

On the other hand, the author offers the perspective of the liberal white American who holds ideas about the noble savage and white guilt by articulating what they truly think about undocumented migrants. Boyle highlights the hypocrisy of liberal white Americans who pretend to be champions of the people on the weekends, but go back to being prejudiced and elitist when the weekdays come, so to speak.

This hypocrisy is personified by Delaney. When his personal relations with Cándido gradually deteriorate, the true nature of Delaney's character surfaces. He becomes just as territorial and xenophobic as the white supremacists and American ultra-nationalists that the left criticizes.

However, the idea of the noble savage—that the indigenous person is always the victim and purely innocent—dissolves not only within the worldview of Delaney and Kyra, but in general, when we see that the migrants themselves exploit their own. This reiterates the Darwinian theory of survival that is present throughout the narrative: that everyone in America is just trying to survive—whether they are poor and trying to rise up on the socioeconomic ladder, or they are already wealthy and are trying to protect their assets and lifestyle—by any means necessary.

Despite the positive outcome at the end of the novel, in which Delaney and Cándido reclaim their humanity, especially in the case of the former, Cándido and América are forever changed by their experiences. Although there are very minimal studies on the psychological trauma immigrants suffer during their experiences in America, one can assume that America has left an emotional imprint on Cándido and América. Their characters and what they experienced throughout the novel is a microcosm of the larger immigration experience.

One last thing to note is that the flood that almost kills Cándido and Delaney is a reference to the biblical Great Flood. They are surviving a divine "cleansing," and they return to America, the promised land, renewed.

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