Miami Stories

Miami Stories: Search for a better life lures this immigrant to Miami

Marie Joseph with her team at Marriott.
Marie Joseph with her team at Marriott.

On Nov. 1, 1987, at 30 years old, I left my home and family in Haiti to search for a better life. The economic and political situation was unbearable, and my family was being abused by the Duvalier regime. I promised my parents I would come back for them.

On that day, I boarded a boat headed to Miami with 100 other Haitians in hopes of a safe arrival; sadly, not all of us made it. When we finally reached the coast of Miami, some people had died of dehydration and starvation. I came to this city with only the clothes on my back and the promise I had made to my parents.

During my first year, I struggled working a series of odd jobs to support my family until Dec. 1, 1988, when I joined MDM Hotel Group as a housekeeper at Dadeland Marriott Hotel. Shortly after, I was promoted to room attendant and then in May of 1993, I was the first associate to hold the position of laundry supervisor. I met my husband in 1988, and we got married in 1992 when I was expecting my second child. While I was working and raising my children, I attended night school and received my nursing degree.

In 1997, I was thrilled to fulfill my promise to my parents and was able to bring them to the United States. After just a few years of living in the United States, we received the devastating news that my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. I kept my faith and prayed every day for the improvement of my mother’s health.

A few months later, I received a phone call at the hotel from my mother’s oncologist telling me that my mother had only a few days to live and to pick her up and spend as much time with her as I could. Then a miracle happened: Just a few days later, my mother was cancer free.

My mother lived a beautiful life and lived until July 2013. Sadly, shortly after my mother’s miracle, my father was diagnosed with throat cancer, which quickly ascended to his brain.

I am the sole provider in my home, not only supporting my family here but also my family in Haiti, and I not only work as a laundry supervisor, but also as an on-call banquet server. There are days where I work in the laundry department until the afternoon, change in the locker room into my banquet uniform, and go straight to work. Sometimes I work a banquet until 3 a.m., get an hour of sleep, and start getting ready for work at 4 a.m. . Every single day, I give 100 percent to my work.

Being the only supervisor who speaks Creole at my workplace, I volunteer when needed to translate. Even though I always have personal matters taking place in my life, I try my best to give back to the community. When the earthquake hit Haiti, I immediately organized a successful donation drive and volunteered my time. I was a major driver of the hotel’s “Haiti Relief Drive” that was hosted as a Spirit to Serve Community Program. I wanted to help the people who were affected, especially the families of my coworkers.

Throughout my 25-year career for Marriott, I have been honored with multiple awards. I was Associate of the Month in April 1991 and May 1999. In 1999, I was also recognized as Associate of the Year. Since 2006, I have won Manager of the Month several times, and in April 2013, I won Leader of the Month. In 2013, I joined the “Quarter Century Club” for Marriott International, an exclusive club for those associates who have been with the company for 25 years. I am grateful and humbled to work for a company that truly appreciates its employees.

In 2013, I was awarded the prestigious “J. Willard Marriott Award of Excellence,” the highest honor given by Marriott International to only 10 employees every year. This was a tremendous honor considering that Marriott is located in 74 countries with more than 325,000 associates worldwide. In May 2014, I traveled to Washington, D.C., where I received my award in front of executives of Marriott International and had the incredible experience of having dinner with top executives.

Throughout all the hardships I suffered during my life in both Haiti and the United States, I feel blessed for the opportunities I have had. Working for Marriott International has helped support my family and me for 25 incredible years. It has also allowed me to fulfill the American dream.

Tell us your story

HistoryMiami invites you to share your Miami Story.

To submit: Submit your story and photo(s) at Your story may be posted at, published in Sunday’s Neighbors print edition and archived at

About Miami Stories: This project is a partnership between HistoryMiami, Miami Herald Media Company, WLRN and Michael Weiser, chairman of the National Conference on Citizenship.