It’s a bittersweet start to their American Dream.
Hordes of newly arrived South and Central American migrants are descending underground to peddle candy in subway stations and aboard trains across the Big Apple — often with babies strapped to their backs — in order to scrape by.
Maria Vaca, 25, who on Friday had been in New York for just eight days, said she needed money to pay rent to her cousin in the Bronx where she was staying with her husband and three kids. She said she collected $70 Thursday.
“I was told people buy candy here,” Vaca said of the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station where she was joined Friday by her 6-year-old daughter, who clung to her leg, her eyes wide.
Another mom, who declined to give her name and said she was in town for only 15 days, hawked $2 bags of M&Ms and Skittles at the same station, with her toddler daughter bundled up and strapped to her back.
“Those of us who just got here figured out that we can make money this way,” she said, adding that she can make upwards of $80 a day.
The peddlers are among the tidal wave of new arrivals who continue to flood into the Big Apple, a crisis that is straining shelters and transient hotels and could cost the city up to $2 billion. Between June and early January, more than 36,000 migrants have come to New York City.
The new arrivals selling sweets told The Post they were struggling.
“Some days we have no food to eat, no money to buy food,” said one tearful mom, who gave her name only as Alexandra.
Her family arrived in New York City by bus a week earlier after making an arduous journey from Ecuador. She said they were robbed of all their money in Mexico and they were staying at a Bronx shelter.
Her husband, Arturo, said a kind-hearted shelter worker initially gave them a box of candy — worth $100 — to sell. Now the couple and their two nephews fan out, taking different trains, and spend about nine hours a day trying to make a buck.
Alexandra, who had her infant daughter strapped to her back while she sold candy on the C train, said it was difficult to collect enough money to buy more candy.
“We tell the woman working [at the supermarket]we have no money, we can’t pay for it, and she will gift them to us,” she said.
Patricia Condor, 35, another newcomer from Ecuador who was selling chocolate at the Times Square station Friday, said she arrived here by bus on Tuesday with her husband and three kids and the family was staying with a cousin in Brooklyn.
Condor said she bought a box of chocolates with 60 bars for $40 from another migrant and had been at the subway stop since 8 am trying to turn a profit. By 3 pm she had sold only about 10 bars at $2 each.
She said she hadn’t eaten or used the bathroom all day.
“I don’t know where I can go for one. It’s too big and overwhelming here. I am doing whatever I can and fighting to feed my children,” she said, wiping away tears. “It’s difficult to earn money, to find a job. It’s tough living here.”
Some straphangers took pity on the sellers.
One woman asked a vendor’s young daughter to help her pick out candy. She selected a bag of M&Ms, and then handed the girl three $1 bills and gave her a first bump.
Another commuter at Columbus Circle gave $1 to one of the children with a nod and a smile and walked away without taking any candy.