The uniformed, 31-year arrived in Key West with his wife and three children just one month ago. Captain Maximo Perez, is a young man whose faith is assisting many islanders at a time when economic strain plagues the nation. As Captain Perez, a native of Guantanamo tells The Weekly Newspapers, our financial woes do not compare to living amidst a communist regime. He should know, his family was part of the privileged society, but he had other aspirations.
“I’m from Guantanamo, Cuba,” Captain Perez fills The Weekly in on his personal history.
The statement causes him to let out an infectious laugh, and he begins to tell the tale of his quest to preach the word of god.
“Just five years ago, I became a citizen of the United States, but growing up in Cuba my parents were communists. My mother was in charge of the hospitals in Cuba, my father, he was the Chief of Police.”
Perez was part of the privileged society.
“We had a house, car, motorcycle and food in the fridge. I ate every meal. That’s amazing,” notes Captain Perez. “Other people are starving.”
During trips to the beach, all that separated them from the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was a fence.
“We saw the soil. The American property.”
He remembers his father, who is now retired, as a loving husband and provider for the family, but after his parents divorced, Captain Perez moved with his mother, grandmother, and sister to Havana.
Maximo began preaching Christianity, much to the dismay of the regime.
“This man said to my mom, Captain Perez shares bits and pieces of the riveting saga, “‘if you don’t take him out of the country we’re going to kill him.’ They questioned me at the police station, sometimes for eight hours at a time.”
His mother applied to the American Embassy, and proved the communists posed a real threat. When he was 16, he, his sister and mother were granted visas to come to the U.S. But, his grandmother, a cook for the regime paid the price. She was fired and succumbed to living in the streets.
Maximo first moved with his mother and sister to Miami, before heading South to the Keys. Captain Perez’s mom took a housekeeping position at Casa Marina, and Maximo worked at a restaurant in Big Pine. Then, he answered his calling and went to attend the Salvation Army College in Atlanta.
“We have been all over the place. Alabama, the Carolinas, Atlanta, Washington, Orlando,” Perez outlines his tour. “We never thought they would be sending us back to Key West.”
Or, that the need would become so great.
“The situation is amazing,” Captain Perez’s brown eyes relay compassion. “Since we have been here we have been helping people from $15 to $500 to help pay their bills. Sometimes there is just a check request, sometimes they need spiritual counseling.”
Regardless, the Salvation Army doesn’t discriminate based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.
“For example, we had a man who came to the office, a white male, a professional. He sat down in the office and said to me, ‘I lost my job, my house, my wife, and my kids. I was a good dad providing for them, but they left me, what can I do? I need help,’” Perez describes. “$189 check was cut for food. It is sad, and I thank god for the job I have, my three kids and my wife Elizabeth.”
If the money and donations are there, the Salvation Army, Captain Perez says, is there to help.
Captain Maximo Perez
Born: Guantanamo, Cuba
Education: 2 years with Salvation Army University, Atlanta
5 years with Trevecca Nazarene University,
Oversees: 5 family stores
2 Social Services
“I have passion and vision to help the community. This is my thing.”
5-year old Maximo II cuddles up to his mom, Saray. “We named him after me, because I’m the one who paid for the Pampers you know,” the captain shares his sense of humor.
Perez has a strong connection to his children and says, “I see them, and I know I will keep going and I will fight. They are my god and my inspiration.” Pictured are Saray,10 and Maxely, 8 playing Barbie on the computer. The girls will start school this fall at Poinciana Elementary.
Captains Maximo & Elizabeth Perez with their children. Saray, Maximo II and Maxely. The couple is determined to instill respect and family values amongst the impressionable youngsters. “To be diplomatic, and try to get along in every way possible,” affirms their dad.