Joseph Miranda, the Salvadoran who wants to save the world

Joseph Miranda, the Salvadoran who wants to save the world


Joseph Miranda, working the night shift behind a deli counter.

José “Joseph” Miranda came to the United States as a timid 7-year-old boy from El Salvador who didn’t speak English. Now, at 25, he works the night shift behind a deli counter in the East Village. After four years, he knows most of the customers so well that he casually switches his greetings from English to Spanish and vice versa. Energetic and friendly, he routinely praises customers when they opt not to use a plastic bag. “It’s better for the environment,” he tells them. He shares his passion for the Earth with customers and visitors alike.

Q. Why did you come to the United States? 

A.  It’s not because I want to be here, but you can’t live in El Salvador. You don’t feel safe over there; you don’t have freedom like here in the United States. Here you can go out at anytime and you’re not afraid somebody is going to rob you, but in El Salvador you can’t go outside after 9 p.m. because it’s very dangerous. That’s why I came here when I was really young, for a better life, because this country has a lot of opportunities.

Q. How difficult was it not speaking English at first?  

A. You can’t understand what people say, what your friends talk about. You feel frustrated because you can’t understand what they say. I tried at school for three months but it really didn’t help. I learned English talking to my friends, watching TV and listening to 90s music, like Enrique Iglesias. I like his music, he’s a romantic and he sings in English and Spanish, although I prefer his songs in English. I can understand what he’s saying.

Q. What’s your impression of New York City?

A. New York is like a pressure cooker. You have to be fast all the time. I went to Chicago last month, and in Chicago, L.A. and other cities life moves in slow motion. You go to the deli and ask for something, and the people there take their time. In New York City you ask for something and they give it right away. Here everything must be fast; there is a lot of pressure.

Q. What do you like most of the city? 

A. I have to say it’s the diversity of people, ethnicities, cultures and religions. That blend is great because that is what makes a city strong and makes it stand out. It has been a wonderful experience for me, because I never had the opportunity to interact with Israelis, Dutch or German people. The exchange of cultures is fantastic.

Q. What don’t you like about the city?

A. Definitely pollution; I feel bad even saying it but the air is so poisoned that it affects our health. I know friends have gotten so sick that they have to go to hospitals and go on bed rest. So they decide to go back to their country, and once they get there they get healthier.  You realize the pollution is so high that is worrying, especially in countries like the United States that has so many factories. It makes you think ‘I’m not immune to this, I’m exposed to this.’

Q. If you could do anything about it, what would you do?

A. We are destroying our environment. I know for a fact that the rain that falls here is acid rain and I am always worried thinking about it. I’m constantly pondering how best I can help today, tomorrow or in the future.  I think it’s about finding creative ways to reach a lot of people and inform them. If I had the money I would spend $11 million dollars on a Super Bowl commercial to alert everyone about climate change and encourage them to do their part in taking care of the environment.

Q. If money weren’t an issue, what steps would you take to achieve your goal?

A. I was studying social and chemical sciences but I had to quit school to help around the house growing up. I have a big family, we’re six siblings, and I didn’t have a father, I only had my mom. So I had to help my family. I started working ever since I can remember. Actually, my mom tells me that from a very young age I always told her I wanted her to take me to work with her, that I wanted to help her.  But if I could do anything, I would go back to study. I want to be a journalist or work in the media, in TV, because I want to be able to reach a lot of people and make them conscious about the importance of helping one another and make them aware of our environmental issues, and the importance of taking care of what gives us life, which is Earth.

About author

Maria Gonzalez
Maria Gonzalez 3 posts

Mexican journalist studying a masters in Magazine Writing. Opinionated. Wordy. A little awkward sometimes. You can read more from me at or follow me on Twitter @mariainnyc

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