“I’m Cuban and I’ve lived in the US for 10 years. I arrived with the dream of accomplishing the goal I was denied in Cuba, which was becoming an important Chef.

While living in Cuba, I won a scholarship and I had every intention of studying what I loved most, which was culinary, but I was denied the opportunity. Instead, I was forced to study something with computers. Once my studies were completed, I was automatically enrolled in the military, as is customary in Cuba. I was forced to spend two years serving as a guard for the Communist party. If I refused, they would put me in jail, or my family would suffer. As soon as I finished my service, 5 months later, I escaped because, in the end, I couldn’t study what I wanted, and I couldn’t be who I wanted to be. I was tired.

I left Cuba in a balsa, along with 24 other people. The motor on the boat wasn’t good and the trip took us 19 hours. During my first few days in the US, I sold flowers at a traffic light until I got my work permit.

For the first 6 years, I worked in restaurants in South Beach and Miami Beach that specialized in Cuban cuisine. I enjoyed working there and along the way, I met a lot of people, but there came a point where I felt I wasn’t advancing. I felt stuck. I really wanted to accomplish this dream of mine, but at the same time, I couldn’t picture it anymore.

Currently, I work at Kaori, a place I feel proud to work at. I love my job. Every day I arrive with passion and the desire to give the best of myself. I found a second family here that I appreciate and with whom I’ve learned a lot. To this day, I feel very fortunate for all I’ve accomplished and for leaving Cuba. Even though I came in a balsa (raft), the difficult journey to the US has been well worth the effort and sacrifice. Every day I feel closer and closer to fulfilling my dreams.”