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Pedro, I'm the Editor at BackStory, a public radio show. Interested in featuring one of your photos for an upcoming episode on child migrants. One of our segments will be about Peter Pan. Wanted to make sure that was all right! Please write back and let me know. Thanks. P.S. We're on the web at

Message by Roberto I. Armengol | Sep 5th 2014

Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art + Design Presents the inaugural Exhibition at the new Cultural Legacy Gallery, Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres MOAD - Cuban Diaspora Celia L Credit: Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in collaboration with Tico Torres Miami, July 28, 2014 - The Museum of Art + Design (MOAD) at Miami Dade College (MDC) presents Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres. The inaugural exhibition will open to the public at 6 p.m. Friday, September 19, at the new Cultural Legacy Gallery, a permanent space dedicated to the impact of Cuban culture on South Florida and throughout the world, housed at the National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College in Downtown Miami. Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in collaboration with Tico Torres features what have become iconic photographs of Cuban figures living outside the island, among them performers, composers, designers, writers and artists. The Cuba Out of Cuba series was shot over the last twenty years in Miami, New York, London, Paris, Florence, Venice and Los Angeles. The exhibition will take a unique and historical approach in surveying the legacies of individuals such as Celia Cruz, Bebo Valdez, Gloria Estefan, Cristina Saralegui, Andy Garcia, Cundo Bermudez, Nilo Cruz, and Paquito d’Rivera, among other Cubans who have influenced the greater culture of their time. Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1968 he and his parents were among Cuban exiles who left the Island aboard the humanitarian air lifts called the Freedom Flights. Once arriving to Miami, his family and many thousands of other Cuban exiles came through the doors of the Freedom Tower that served as a processing and assistance center for the exile community. For many, the tower provided nothing less than their freedom from Castro and the hardships Cuba had come to give them, rightly earning its name of the Freedom Tower. Rodriguez–Duarte’s family settled in Miami’s Little Havana community. At the age of 10, he was given his first camera by his grandfather, which led to his love affair with photography. Today, he is a New York and Miami-based internationally renowned photographer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, and Harper’s Bazaar, among other major publications, and has exhibited his work at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., Museum of the City of New York, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and The Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach among others. Rodriguez-Duarte and his husband of 31 years, Tico Torres, have been documenting the Cuban diaspora since 1993. Torres, a photo stylist who is a master of the mise-en-scene, helped create with Rodriguez-Duarte the joyous image of Celia Cruz standing amid the towering palms of Fairchild Tropical Garden in a traditional ruffled Cuban gown. He was also there to set the mood in the London flat of Guillermo Cabrera Infante, one of Cuba’s most famous authors. Torres and his family were also among Cuban exiles who settled in Miami’s Hialeah community. Rodriguez-Duarte and Torres are thrilled to be returning together, full circle to the historic Freedom Tower for this inaugural exhibit, after separately setting foot there as immigrant children so many years before. The inaugural exhibition kicks off the Museum’s fall season scheduled for Friday, September 19, 2014 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. in conjunction with SIDE BY SIDE: MDCULTURE STANDS AS ONE, a one night event held at the College’s historic Freedom Tower, featuring performances, exhibitions, film screenings, the public unveiling of 2014 Book Fair Poster, and the long awaited Cuban Exile Experience at the Freedom Tower. Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres will remain on display at the museum through August 30, 2015. All exhibitions are free and open to the public. MDC’s Freedom Tower was operated by the U.S. Government as a reception center for Cuban refugees from 1962 to 1974. “The building is significant because it represents the important story of the Cuban exodus to America and resettlement during the Cold War,” reports the U.S. Department of the Interior, which has also called the Freedom Tower the “Ellis Island of the South.” Though it operated in that capacity for only 12 years, the building has become an icon representing the faith that democracy brought to troubled lives, the generosity of the American people and a hopeful beginning that assured thousands a new life in a new land. WHAT: Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres WHEN: Friday, September 19 –Opening Reception from 6 – 9 p.m. September 19, 2014 – August 30, 2015 Museum Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. WHERE: MDC Museum of Art + Design Cultural Legacy Gallery The Freedom Tower at MDC, First Floor 600 Biscayne Blvd. About MDC Museum of Art + Design MDC Museum of Art + Design (MOAD) is Miami Dade College’s flagship institution dedicated to the presentation and exhibition of visual art and design, housed at the National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College in Downtown Miami. The mission of the Museum is to promote the appreciation and understanding of art and its role in society through direct engagement with original works of art from within the College’s extensive permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. Furthermore, the Museum presents year-round lectures, symposiums and art related events to expose, educate and engage the greater public through related creative processes. The MDC Museum of Art + Design provides its patrons and visitors access to unique cultural, historical and educational exhibitions that enrich the greater community while building and preserving an expansive permanent art collection. Miami Dade College has been collecting art since the 1960s. Over the years, the collection has grown contain more than 1,600 works in all mediums and genres, specifically within the movements of minimalism, pop art of the ’60s and ’70s, conceptual art and contemporary Latin American art. The College and Museum actively acquire works by emerging and under-recognized artists, as well as major figures in modern, post-modern and contemporary art. About The Cuban Exile Experience & Cultural Legacy Gallery The Cuban Exile Experience & Cultural Legacy Gallery is a historical division of the MDC Museum of Art + Design. In addition to visual arts, the Museum supports exhibitions and programs that collect, preserve, research and interpret stories and artifacts that help build a better community understanding and appreciation of the Freedom Tower’s history. For more information about the exhibition, events or VIP Opening Reception at MDC Museum of Art + Design, please contact the Museum at 305-237-7722 or Event contacts: Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director Tere Estorino Florin, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | Jul 31st 2014

Cuban immigrants share precious family heirlooms to show history of Cuban exiles by Janey Fugate Julia Adán Pelegrín, 71, opened a black suitcase full of faded elegant shirts. Those shirts, she explained, belonged to her father, Emilio Adán Silva, when he was a Supreme Court justice in Cuba, and they represented his life before he and 12 other justices signed a letter denouncing Fidel Castro’s government. Eight years later, his family moved to Miami. Those shirts, Pelegrín says, represent the sacrifice her father made for his family and express the pride she feels. “These are not only memories but items of everyday use when Cuba existed as a nation,” Adán said. “[These shirts] were on the streets of Havana. They lived there.” Such feelings of pride and nostalgia prevailed Saturday in the lobby of the Freedom Tower, when dozens of Cubans gathered to donate or lend objects of historic interest that document their exile experience. More than 300 items — passports, documents, photos, clothes — will be part of an exhibit that will open at the tower in September. The inauguration of the exhibit is a key step in the preservation of Cuban history, said Alina Interián, host of the event and executive director of Miami Dade College cultural affairs. “We want to pay tribute to the people to whom this tower means so much,” said Interián, who also was processed at the Freedom Tower when she arrived from Cuba. Between 1962 and 1974, Cuban refugees were processed at the tower, known as “The Refuge.” It was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2008. The exhibit, titled “The Exile Experience: Journey to Freedom,” is a collaboration between Miami Dade College and the Miami Herald Media Company. Its objective is to document, preserve and share the history of the difficulties the exiled Cuban community went through since Fidel Castro’s rise to power. The facility has deserved a project like this for some time, said Luisa Meruelo, 93, who worked for the tower’s immigration service for nine years. “I was always wondering why no one had done something about the refugees here,” Meruelo said. “This is a long story, a beautiful story.” The exhibit is a way to thank the nation that gave them refuge during that turbulent time, she said. “We have to thank the people of the United States for being so generous to us at a very difficult time,” she said. Now, the museum can show items like the first coins earned in this country, the tie that an immigrant was wearing when he arrived, a wedding gown and the tiny dress of a 3-year-old. To the people who wore them, these items are intimately associated with the difficult experience of having to abandon their native country. One of those people was Mercy Advocat, who arrived in 1962 with her brother in the Pedro Pan Operation. That exodus took place between 1960 and 1962 and brought more than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children to the United States. “The last thing our parents told us before leaving was that my brother and I should never be separated,” Advocat said. “We then boarded the plane and, when we landed, the first thing they did was separate us — the girls from the boys.” Advocat and her brother eventually were sent to the same foster home in Albuquerque, N.M., and they ended doing what their parents had told them. After two years, they were reunited with their mother in New York. The black-and-white photos Advocat brought to the tower show her mother’s tears when she reunited with her children. She is lending those photos and a doll brought from Cuba — some of her most precious keepsakes — to the museum. She is not ready to part with them yet. “I’m not so old to have to donate them,” she said. © 2014 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved. Read more here:

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | Jul 27th 2014

Message from Pedro Pan Eloísa Echazábal. Below the link to the Miami Dade College announcement dated July 8th regarding the upcoming Freedom Tower exhibit about the Cuban exile experience. This exhibit will be launched in mid-September. The first exile focus will be on the Pedro Pan exodus. Most of us who reunited with our parents in Miami remember visiting the Freedom Tower for the services the U.S. government made available to the newly arriving Cuban exiles. The Pedro Pan exhibit will last about two years. Miami Dade College and The Miami Herald Media Company invited me to collaborate with them when the plans were first developed about two years ago, and I was ecstatic with the opportunity. Also collaborating with their memorabilia and photos are Operation Pedro Pan Group Inc.organization, Barry University Archives and Special Collections, University of Miami Cuban Heritage Collection and Florida International University Libraries. As soon as the next official announcement comes out, I will forward. In the meantime, I would like to let you know that a "collecting day" is being planned for Saturday, July 26th, from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Freedom Tower. This is the day when Pedro Pans will have the opportunity to bring memorabilia regarding our Pedro Pan days to be loaned to the exhibit. Required receipts and documentation will be available there. Courtesy parking on the open lot across the street south of the Tower. Entrance on N.E. 5th street. Just let the attendant know you are coming to the Tower to bring your items. This is a great opportunity to showcase our experience. Again, as additional announcements are released, I'll forward.

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | Jul 19th 2014

I am looking for a young man who lived with Msgr. Walsh at the Brikell Ave address during 1969. But he was not literally a "Pedro Pan" because he swam to GTMO and then was brought here. His name was Pablo Rico. I am writing a book and would like to reconnect with him. I don't remember, but he may be 59, and he may have attended la Salle or Belen. If not here, where do I find information about these boys who were not actually on the flights. God Bless and thanks for this valuable work!

Message by Liliana (Lilly) Gascon | Jul 10th 2014

I am an author and specialize in history around Momence. I went to school with a number of "Cuban Girls" who attended St. Patrick's Academy in Momence, IL I would like to find many of them as I plan to write their story. Can you suggest a way I can get assistance. Message by Kevin McNulty |

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | May 23rd 2014

Pedro has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Dec 22nd 2013

Pedro has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Dec 21st 2013

English article follows Spanish version - En 1961, Luis León salió de Cuba a Miami sin sus padres. Sólo tenía 11 años, un cepillo de dientes, una muda de ropa y $3 en el bolsillo. Pero también traía un corazón que décadas después lo llevaría a dirigir una iglesia histórica aledaña a la Casa Blanca conocida como “la iglesia de los presidentes”. El próximo lunes, aquel joven que formó parte de la Operación Pedro Pan recitará la bendición en la ceremonia que investirá por segunda vez a Barack Obama como presidente de Estados Unidos. Y encarnará el espíritu de lo que significa ser un ciudadano de este país, así como de los valores de diversidad e inclusión que representa el presidente reelecto. “Es un honor ser parte de un hito de la historia estadounidense, puesto que todas las investiduras presidenciales lo son, y es un honor especial por ser un inmigrante en este país, el único país donde un hecho como éste puede suceder”, afirmó León el miércoles en una entrevista telefónica con El Nuevo Herald desde la Iglesia Episcopal St. John’s, en Washington. “Siento que de cierta manera estoy representando a la comunidad hispana de Estados Unidos. Somos una parte importante de este país”. El Día de las Elecciones, Obama cimentó su victoria en el fuerte respaldo de los latinos. León no será el único representante de sangre cubana en la ceremonia de asunción, que tendrá lugar en el National Mall a partir de las 11:30 a.m. Obama también eligió personalmente al poeta Richard Blanco, criado en Miami de padres cubanos, quien declamará un poema original para el juramento. Blanco es el primer poeta hispano y el más joven que participa en la investidura de un presidente. Como ministro de St. Jhon’s desde 1995, León ha aconsejado desde el púlpito a tres líderes de la nación que le abrió los brazos cuando el gobierno comunista de Cuba descarriló su vida: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush – quien organizó una fiesta en la Casa Blanca para celebrar el vigésimo quinto aniversario de su ordenación en la Iglesia Episcopal – , y Obama. Fue en el 2005, durante la ceremonia de asunción del ex presidente Bush, que León ingresó a los anales de la historia nacional como el primer hispano en ofrecer la bendición inaugural. Y la semana próxima, la vida le concederá el privilegio por segunda vez. Durante los tres minutos en que será el foco de atención de millones de ciudadanos alrededor del mundo, se centrará en el tema del diálogo y la reconciliación. “Mi preocupación es que no estamos hablando unos con los otros”, explicó León, de 63 años. “Creo que cuando Dios nos bendice, Dios nos llama a dar lo mejor de nosotros; a conversar y relacionarnos unos con otros”. El pastor nació en el área cubana de Guantánamo en 1949, hijo de Luis y Concepción “Concha” León, que profesaban la fe católica. La madre trabajaba en la única escuela episcopal de Guantánamo y se sintió atraída hacia esa denominación de origen anglicano. Su esposo siguió sus pasos y ambos fueron recibidos formalmente en la Iglesia Episcopal, cuya presencia en Cuba data del siglo XIX, cuando se fundó una capellanía para atender a los ingleses y norteamericanos que vivían en la isla en tiempos de la Colonia. Al volver de distantes tierras, cubanos exiliados en Estados Unidos que más tarde participaron en la guerra independentista contra España trajeron consigo la Iglesia Episcopal pero con un sentido criollo, que establecieron en comunidades como Morón, Matanzas y Guantánamo. Se habían unido a esta tradición cristiana en el destierro, debido a que relacionaban a la Iglesia Católica con los aliados de la Corona Española, apuntó el obispo Leo Frade de la Diócesis Episcopal del Sureste de la Florida. “Luis León creció sintiéndose una minoría religiosa pero a la vez prominente, porque la inteligencia de Guatánamo consideraba al colegio de la Iglesia Episcopal como el mejor colegio del área cubana de Guantánamo”, dijo Frade, amigo personal de León por muchos años. A comienzos de la década de 1960, los padres de León temieron que el gobierno de Fidel Castro lo desarraigara de su hogar para internarlo en una escuela de adoctrinamiento comunista. En 1961, lo enviaron rumbo a Miami como parte de la legión de 14,048 menores de la Operación Pedro Pan, en la que también participó la Iglesia Episcopal. “Es una experiencia que define el resto de tu vida”, expresó. “A temprana edad aprendes a asumir mucha responsabilidad”. Luis Palomares, un primo hermano de León en Miami que se crió junto a él en Cuba y también es Pedro Pan, recordó el reencuentro de ambos el día de su octavo cumpleaños durante una celebración en un parque de Coconut Grove. León, entonces de 12 años, llegó con una pierna enyesada. “Estaba jugando pelota y la bola cayó en el techo de una casa. Subió a buscarla y los amigos lo retaron a saltar”, recordó Palomares. “El se eleva a cualquier reto en todo momento y no defrauda a nadie”. En Miami, el pequeño Luis residió algunas semanas en un orfanato y luego fue adoptado por una familia de crianza, Malcolm y Virginia McNaughton, vecinos de South Miami. Asistió a la Escuela St. Stephen’s, en Coconut Grove, y, posteriormente, la Escuela Intermedia Palmetto. No fue hasta cinco años después, mientras estudiaba en la Academia Berry, en Georgia, que se reencontró con su madre. A su padre nunca lo volvió a ver; había fallecido en 1963. Después de college, sintió el llamado a servir a Dios e inició sus estudios sacerdotales y posterior carrera como pastor, primero en Carolina del Norte y luego en St. John’s donde durante la Guerra Civil, el patriarca Abraham Lincoln entró a rezar. Uno de los fieles que a menudo visitaba la iglesia, y se sentaba a orar nueve filas detrás del altar, en una banca especial designada para los presidentes, fue George W. Bush. Este forjó una amistad especial con León: conversaba con él después de los servicios dominicales, lo invitaba a cenas en la Casa Blanca y le pidió que bendijera su investidura. Durante su primer mandato, Obama y su famila también participaron en los servicios litúrgicos de St. John’s en numerosas ocasiones. León resaltó que ambos presidentes conocen su historia, le han hecho preguntas al respecto y él hasta les ha presentado a la familia adoptiva. “Ellos conocen mi historia pero no es lo que define nuestra relación, que es como debe ser”, aseveró. “No me identifican como el clérigo cubano, sino como el clérigo de la iglesia”. Sin embargo, cuando suena la campanada del cambio de año, León, su esposa Lu, sus hijas Sofía y Emilia, de 26 y 23 años, las tres nacidas en Estados Unidos, degustan las 12 uvas de la tradición española y latinoamericana, como símbolo de prosperidad, para dar la bienvenida al Año Nuevo. “Yo cocino un buen plato de frijoles negros, plátano maduro y lechón con mojo”, confesó el pastor. “Mis hijas están muy conscientes de su herencia cubana”. Daniel Shoer Roth An Operation Pedro Pan veteran to give benediction at Monday’s inauguration . A Cuban-born Episcopalian pastor from Washington, D.C. has been selected to give the benediction at Monday’s inauguration. In 1961, Luis Leon fled his native Cuba for Miami. He was only 11 and traveling alone. He carried only a change of clothes a toothbrush and $3 in his pocket. In exile, Leon would choose a life in the clergy and eventually head the historic church near the White House known as "Church of the Presidents" — John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. At Monday’s inauguration, the young boy who was among the 14,048 Cuban children spirited away from Fidel Castro’s Communist indoctrination during the famed Operation Pedro Pan will take center stage as he gives the benediction at President Barrack Obama’s second swearing in. The Episcopalian pastor embodies the spirit of the country’s diversity. On Election Day, Obama cemented his victory with strong support from Latinos. “It’s an honor to be a part of such a milestone in American history, as all inaugurations are. And it’s a special honor because as an immigrant, this is the only country where something like this could happen to me,” Leon, 63, told The Miami Herald in a telephone interview on Wednesday from his church. "I feel that in some way I am representing the U.S. Hispanic community. And we’re an important part of this country," said Leon, who is married to his wife, Lu, and has two grown daughters. Leon is not the only Cuban-American with Miami ties taking part in the inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the National Mall starting at 11:30 a.m. Obama also personally chose Miami-raised poet Richard Blanco, who was born in Spain to Cuban parents, to read an inauguration poem. Blanco is the first Hispanic and also the youngest poet to ever participate in a swearing in. Leon is no stranger to presidential ceremonies. As minister of St. John's since 1995, he has counseled from the pulpit three presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. It’s also not the first time for Leon giving the benediction. In 2005, he became the first Hispanic to deliver the inaugural benediction to President Bush. During his three allotted minutes on Monday where he will hopefully have the attention of millions of American watching, Leon said he will speak of reconciliation. "My concern is that we are not speaking to each other," Leon said. "I think when God blesses us, God is calling for the best in us in our relationships with each other.’’ BY DANIEL SHOER ROTH AND LUISA YANEZ

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | Jan 17th 2013

On this site, which was officially known as the Florida City Shelter of the Catholic Welfare Bureau’s Cuban Children’s Program, thousands of Operation Pedro Pan children found refuge from Communist Cuba between 1961 and 1966. Operation Pedro Pan was conceived and organized by Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh of the Archdiocese of Miami and James Baker, headmaster of Ruston Academy in Havana, Cuba, at the request of parents who sought to prevent Communist indoctrination of their children. It was financed largely by the United States Government with full support of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations, and was supervised by the State of Florida. Between December 1960 and October 1962, over 14,000 Pedro Pan children arrived in South Florida. The Florida City Shelter was the largest of the Operation’s facilities in the state. It housed girls 5-19 years old and boys under 13 who lived in home units under the care of exiled Cuban couples who served as house parents. Its day-to-day operations were managed by Catholic priests and Sisters of St. Philip Neri. Many Operation Pedro Pan children went on to plant deep roots in the region and made significant contributions to Florida and the nation. A FLORIDA HERITAGE LANDMARK SPONSORED BY OPERATION PEDRO PAN GROUP, INC. AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE 2012

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | Nov 19th 2012

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