Jorge Alvart is no stranger to overcoming adversity.
He's missing both arms and doesn't speak English, but that didn't deter him from opening his own business just five years after arriving here from Cuba.
“Seven times. One with arms, six without arms, and I don’t regret what I did,” Alvart said in an interview in Spanish, recounting his attempts to leave Cuba on a raft.
Back in 2007 Alvart sold flowers on the street, and for three years he ran a Christmas tree tent on Bird Road. Last year he sold 750 trees.
Six months ago he bought an orchid store at SW 20th Street and SW 57th Avenue, but now it’s packed with Christmas trees he has trouble selling. So far this year he has sold fewer than a hundred – and Alvart blames construction on Red Road.
Its northbound lanes are closed, and two stores next door went out of business recently.
“I heard he can't sell more than three trees a day,” said Alain Hernandez of Cuba Appliances. “I believe he spent $20,000 in trees and it's not worth it.”
Alvart said the scars on his legs are from being tortured in a Cuban prison. He injected his own fingers with gasoline so he could be taken to a hospital in a plan to escape – but instead he was put in an isolation cell. His arms had to be amputated after he developed gangrene.
Alvart says he has invested five years of hard work and sacrifice in South Florida. Now, suffering from diabetes and liver failure, he is hoping for customers with the Christmas spirit.