Jose Martinez had a good life in the Dominican Republic. He taught children to swim at the Embajador, a Santo Domingo hotel popular among diplomats, and enjoyed the benefits of working for the rich and powerful. When Martinez decided to move to the U.S. in the late 1960s, his connections could have facilitated a quick relocation.
But Martinez, recognizable by his thick, black hair and dapper dress, waited until after the American occupation ended, in 1966, so he wouldn’t leave his mother alone during the occupation. When he finally arrived in New York, Martinez toiled at every food service job imaginable—busing tables, bar backing, bartending and cooking—saving money so he could open his own restaurant.
In 1979, Martinez’s American dream seemed to come true. He and his wife purchased an eatery on Dyckman Street and Nagle Avenue in Manhattan’s uptown neighborhood of Washington Heights—the epicenter of the city’s Dominican community—that would become the Dominican Express Restaurant. “They opened up my piggy bank for the first day,” his daughter, Joselyn Martinez, told Newsweek during a recent interview, recalling with a smile how her parents scrambled to make change. “I got really upset.”
Read more: Googling Her Father’s Killer.