When Miami resident Sara Carranza wants to send shoes and clothing to her family and friends in Chinandega, Nicaragua, she relies on All American Cargo, a Miami freight forwarding company owned by Nicaraguan immigrants that specializes in shipping packages and freight to the Central American nation.
And Sabrina Santos, who with her husband Francisco co-owns Santos Seguros insurance agency in Pompano Beach, always turns to BRCourier, an international shipping service owned by Brazilian immigrants, when she wants to send toys and other items to children in Curitiba, her husband's hometown in southern Brazil.
"They're near us and they offer door-to-door service all over Brazil," said Santos, whose office is located at a mall lined with Brazilian-American businesses on Sample Road. "We use them rather than the big express companies because they are part of our community and we support them."
Like Carranza and Santos, thousands of other Latin American and Caribbean immigrants living in South Florida use small and mid-sized courier and freight companies owned by fellow immigrants to send packages, documents and other goods to friends and families throughout the region.
These couriers, which range from single individuals working from home to companies with 30 or more employees and offices located in other parts of the United States, offer a wide range of services to families and businesses.
In some cases, they compete with giant express and logistics services like UPS and FedEx, carrying packages, documents and freight. Some companies also offer personalized services, such as purchasing spare parts in the United States and sending them to international customers.
No one is quite sure how many small courier and express companies operate in South Florida but they're generally located in the heart of the immigrant communities they serve. "It's very difficult to see how many of these services are out there," said Lorraine Reigosa, director of communications for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
"Some are mom and pop companies and aren't even registered. They're small operations that serve their countries of origin. You see them in almost every strip mall in Little Havana, Little Haiti and other communities," she said.