Less than a year ago, 11-year-old Maykel Sosa was riding his bicycle around his native city of Matanzas, Cuba. His parents had a successful business selling sweets and had the required government license. But the police would not leave them alone.
“The government doesn’t sell the raw materials,” said his mother, Yadira Rivera, in the efficiency apartment the family rents in southwest Miami. “Going out every day to sell was an enormous risk. The police told us that they were watching us. We became very afraid because my husband could be arrested.”
It goes without saying that to make their delicious and popular sweets, the couple had to “resolve” — that magical word that in Cuba means to overcome a problem by illegal means, such as buying black market sugar or flour.
But eventually, they decided to leave for the United States. Rivera said that the family risked a dangerous trek to the United States from Central America because of the situation in Cuba — the lack of freedom.
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“We came for our son’s future, and to help our family in Cuba,” she said.
They went first to Ecuador in April.
“We sold our car and a few things that we had at home,” Rivera said. She cries when she recalls the journey: “The most difficult part was the mountains between Colombia and Panama. We almost lost the boy. He was about to fall down a ravine when my husband grabbed him by the jacket,” Rivera recalls of the nighttime slog on a muddy trail, without a guide to lead them across the frontier.
Their struggles did not end there. People smugglers in Honduras held them in a house for seven days, practically without food, and they were unable to bathe because the water in the cistern was foul.
By the time they reached the United States, the family had not eaten for two days. They received food in the United States, she added, breaking into a broad smile. They arrived in Miami on May 29 and stayed with Cuban friends for the first four months.
This is their first Christmas season in the United States, and in the weeks before Christmas, their apartment didn’t even have a little tree. Two beds, bare walls and a dilapidated kitchen without a working oven is all they have. Rivera wants an oven so she can make and sell sweets, and she wants a job. She says she is ready to do any kind of work.
Her husband, Miguel Sosa, 48, was not home during the interview because he has two jobs. Some days, he works 17 hours as a parking valet in Miami Beach and in a bakery near the home. He’s a beginning “sweets maker,” but it is not difficult to imagine that he will become a master sweets maker: He succeeded in Cuba, with all its shortages of ingredients.
This Christmas season, the Sosa family has a lot of celebrate. Maykel is in fifth grade and learning English at Flagami Elementary. He is well-mannered, speaks slowly, wears a Ninja Turtles T-shirt and does not ask for holiday gifts. At least not until he’s prompted several times: Yes, he would like a bicycle and a baseball glove, bat and ball.
“My teacher says I am good at basketball,” added Maykel, as though the sport is one of the many new options available to him since arriving in the United States.
He was reminded that you can achieve anything in the United States by Ian A. Moffett, head of the Miami-Dade School Police Department,who nominated Maykel for the Wish Book.
“Vision and hope. Every family has to establish a goal: We are going to do this in one year or three years,” said Moffett, recalling the words of his father, who pushed him to study and establish his own goals.
Moffett knows the story of migrants well. He was one of them. Born in Guyana, he moved with his family to Canada when he was 6 years old. He moved to Miami when he was a teenager.
“The support of the community is fundamental for migrants,” said Moffett, recalling that his family received social assistance for a short time in Canada and then in turn helped other arriving families.
Moffett said his advice to those who want to join a police force is “Go to college!” He joined the U.S. Army to study criminal justice. Maykel must have been pretty impressed to see Moffett in his home, who had just returned from a 10-week training at the FBI academy.
“I like math, science and Spanish,” Maykel said. And a computer would help him with his homework.
MDSPD Maj. Hector Garcia was to give a Christmas tree to the Sosa family, said Gemma Carrillo, an education specialist with the department. She was accompanied by José Montes, who works in the school system and has been Tweeting about Maykel.
All the people at the Sosa home that day were migrants, who shared stories about their early days in the United States, learning a new language. As the group went outdoors for a photo, the Miami sun beat down. It’s the first Christmas holiday in Miami for the Sosas, and although none of the other people’s tales could make the Sosas overcome their concerns over their own future, it was certainly an enchanting moment.
How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook @MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook