News

Cuban immigrant took up new life for her children

From 4 p.m. to midnight, she wears a green uniform and yellow rubber gloves.

Esperanza Camacho has worked as a janitor at the University of Miami for the past two years, but may not have come to Miami had it not been for her son.

Fifteen years ago, Camacho enrolled her 14-year-old son Lazaro in the New World School of the Arts in downtown Miami. They had traveled to the United States from Cuba the day before. Neither one spoke a word of English.

“I had never been on an elevator before,” Camacho said of the first time she entered the school. “I was staring at all these buttons and figured I would just press any number and see if we were right.”

Camacho and her son navigated through the unfamiliar corridors and discovered what floor they should be on by looking at the paintings on the walls. They finally found the floor with pictures of people dancing.

“He was accepted the moment they saw him dance,” she said.

Four years later, Lazaro graduated first in his class and went on to attend the Juilliard School in New York City, and later opened his own modern dance studio.

“Sorry if I start to cry when I talk about my varon, but he is just the best person I know who deserved every little bit of success he got,” she said.

The fact that her son’s talent would go to waste in Cuba had become harder to ignore as he grew older, she said. It did not take long for Camacho’s daughter to convince her that leaving Cuba would be worth the struggle.

In 1992, she married a local Miami politician, Manolo Soza. Her cousin organized a civil marriage between Camacho and Soza, and she flew to Miami shortly after as a legal U.S. citizen.

But the matrimony did not last long, and her husband’s name was all she said about the marriage.

“It was just what I had to do,” she said. “And as soon as we figured everything out and I could stay here, we went our separate ways.”

Camacho moved in with her cousin and immediately started working as a cleaning lady in different public places in Miami and Tampa before she came to UM.

“It was obviously hard to live here at first,” Camacho said. “I felt frustrated that I did not know any English, and I just wanted my babies to be happy. But I had it much easier than most, and I can say that even though I have pains in my neck and in my back, I am happy.”

Camacho now lives with her 34-year-old daughter and her 6-year-old grandson. In the morning, she takes her daughter to work and her grandson to school, and in the afternoon she picks them up again before she puts on her UNICCO uniform and drives to UM.

Still, Camacho said she just wished she had more time “to do good work.”

“I like to leave the desks [at UM]clean for the kids the next day and I like to clean the whiteboards my own special way with soap, so that all the marker doesn’t get on anyone’s fingers. For the kids, you know?”

Daniela Dello Joio may be contacted at d.dellojoio@umiami.edu.

February 28, 2008

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

He is considered among the finest defensive line coaches in the nation. And now, according to a writ ...

This is the time of year when every win or loss can make a difference in a team’s NCAA Tournament ch ...

Mike Brey doesn't pay much attention to the NBA draft stock of opposing players, but the Notre ...

He used to be a Gator. But junior Danny Reyes is plenty happy to be back home and playing for the Un ...

It’s a Wednesday morning, and one by one, the familiar Hurricane faces make their way into the non-d ...

At the University of Miami, the professor has the last word on whether students can use their laptop ...

Members of the University of Miami first response teams remind us of resources available and what to ...

Mexican activist, poet and novelist Javier Sicilia deplored the violence stemming from the “drug war ...

From the North Pole to the South Pole and everywhere in between, the art of UM alumnus Xavier Cortad ...

Walker IV scored 19, Izundu scored 14 and the Canes picked up a crucial win in South Bend. ...

The No. 25-ranked University of Miami women's golf team moved into a sixth-place tie on day two ...

After a standout first weekend at the plate with the No. 24 Hurricanes, Miami's Danny Reyes was ...

Miami women's basketball notched an impressive 77-62 triumph Sunday at Virginia, giving head co ...

Former University of Miami track and field standouts Shakima Wimbley and Tiffany Okieme were among t ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.