Meet Hortensia Flores, a Cuban immigrant who yet often smiles, constantly is found in the darkness when remembering the past. Born and raised in el Final Del Rio, Cuba, within an impoverished household, Hortensia was one of seven siblings. Throughout our conversation, she continuously described her family as poor but sincere. However, she says her parents raised her well, at least to the best of their abilities.

As her life continued, Hortensia got married at the age of 17 and went to live in the Providence of Havana, Cuba, where she began her family, which she left all behind. She quickly teared up and expressed how “That’s where my [her] family is. My children… are in Cuba, my husband… is in Cuba, my grandchildren… are in Cuba, I’m alone here in the United States.”

Yet, a new chapter with struggles was on the horizon; adversity was nothing new to Hortensia. She says, “With God’s help, this country has allowed her to move forward. “As we continued speaking, she couldn’t stop expressing her appreciation for this country and what it had given her. She told us how she felt “blessed to live here where freedom has no limits,” clearly comparing her life in Cuba.

Hortensia also shared that she knows she cannot return to her home country due to the current situation in Cuba. And as she began to dread in tears, she expressed the questioning that went through her head as she traveled across the border. With tears still coming across her face, she shared with us how she finally became a US Citizen. Now, her hope for the future is that her land will become free one day so she can reunite with her family again.

Alone is what many may describe her as, but she sees herself as far different. “Many say I’m alone here in the US, but I’m not because I feel accompanied and loved by the many community members,” Hortensia said. As we heard her story, key points began to stand out as she described the steps it took to get where she is now. She went from living with her niece to being in efficiency with Mercedes Rodriguez, who she describes as like her sister, to now having an apartment.

The process continued to sound complex, but she constantly recognized the assistance of local City of Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes. But above all, she says, within the past two years of her residency in Miami, there is no one she can thank more than the Abuelos Foundation. “They are my adopted grandchildren,” she says, “constantly bringing me food, offering me to go to the salon, or simply checking up on me.” As we wrapped up our conversation, she expressed how “I feel like a queen. Many see me as poor but, I feel like a millionaire.”