It is a bittersweet start to their American dream.
Hordes of newly arrived South and Central American immigrants descend underground to sell candy at subway stations and aboard trains through the Big Apple—often with children strapped to their backs—in order to sneak in.
Maria Vaca, 25, who on Friday was only in New York for eight days, said she needed cash to pay rent to her cousin in the Bronx where she was staying with her husband and three children. She said she made $70 on Thursday.
“I’m told people buy candy here,” Vaca said of the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station, where she was joined on Friday by her 6-year-old daughter, who clutched her leg with her eyes wide.
Another mom, who declined to be named and said she’d only been in town 15 days, bought two $2 bags of M&Ms and Skittles at the same station, with her young daughter bundled up and strapped to her back.
“Those who just got here discovered that we could make money this way,” she said, adding that she could earn upwards of $80 a day.
The hawkers are among the tidal wave of newcomers who keep flocking to the Big Apple, and it’s a crunch Strained shelters and transient hotels And it can cost the city up to $2 billion. Between June and early January, more than 36,000 immigrants arrived in New York City.
Newcomers selling sweets told The Post they were struggling.
“Some days we don’t have food to eat, and we don’t have money to buy food,” said one mother, crying and saying her name was only Alexandra.
Her family arrived in New York City by bus a week before a grueling trip from Ecuador. She said that they had been taken away from all their money in Mexico and that they were staying in a shelter in the Bronx.
Her husband, Arturo, said the kind shelter worker first gave them a box of candy — $100 worth — to sell. Now the couple and their two nephews are out, taking different trains, and spending about nine hours a day trying to make money.
Alexandra, whose infant daughter was strapped to her back while she sold candy on the C train, said it was hard to raise enough money to buy more candy.
We tell women to work [at the supermarket]”We have no money,” she said, “and we cannot pay for it, and you will give it to us.”
Patricia Condor, 35, another newcomer from Ecuador who was selling chocolates at a Times Square station on Friday, said she got here by bus on Tuesday with her husband and three children and the family was staying with her cousin in Brooklyn.
Condor said she bought a box of 60 chocolate bars for $40 from another immigrant and has been at the subway station since 8 a.m. trying to turn a profit. By 3pm, she had only sold about 10 bars at $2 apiece.
She said she had not eaten or used the bathroom all day.
“I don’t know where to go for one. It’s so big and overwhelming here. I’m doing everything I can and fighting to feed my kids,” she said, wiping away a tear. “It is difficult to earn money and find a job. It is difficult to live here.”
Some of the strapping workers took pity on the sellers.
One of the women asked a salesman’s young daughter to help her choose candy. She chose a bag of M&Ms, then handed the girl three $1 bills and gave her the first bump.
Another Columbus Circle passenger offered one child a dollar with a nod and a smile and walked away without taking any candy.