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:

Maria Petronila Hernandez Valdivia

General Information
Current Name
Maria Petronila Hernandez Mills
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Maria Petronila Hernandez Valdivia
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Friday, January 5, 1962
Relocated To
St. Patrick's Home, 5961 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento, CA
Stayed With
Blanca & Ramon Gordon, Florida City

Maria Petronila's Story

I was delivered to Florida City on January 5 1962, by “George” a name, my father made sure I knew upside down and sideways. I remember the night he told me I was to leave Cuba and come to the United S...

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Hola Mari Yo soy muy llorica, y sentimental, no me importa llorar, son vivencias, y en la vida hay que sentir, sino esta uno muerto. Cuando hablo de Cuba siempre me emociona, y cuando leo las historias, aun mas... también estoy en la página de mi pueblo de cuba, y no sabes cuanto lloro cuando leo las historias y los comentarios de los de mi pueblo... eso es bonito y es vivir... ha hablado con mi madre y mi hermana para que vean tu historia y tu muñeca.... me voy a la cama que ya son las 11 y mañana hay que levantarse prontito. un abrazo

Message by Maria E Pazos Alvarez | Oct 7th 2009

Hola Mari Que guapa estas con tu muñeca, y que bonita tu muñeca.... es preciosa, que foto mas bonita..... Me ha encantado, ya veo que no era yo la única ue estaba loca con sus muñecas... No sabes cierro los ojos y las puedo ver a todas, y mira que han pasado años!!!! Me ha encantado, voy a llamar a mi mama ahora para ver si mi hermana le abre la página y leen tu historia y ven tu muñeca... un abrazote muy grande!!!!

Message by Maria E Pazos Alvarez | Oct 7th 2009

Querida Mari Que rçapido las has visto!!! vuelas... me alegro que te gusten, la verdad es que me ha costado escogerlas, tengo que subir una de mi prima, de la cual hablo en mi escrito, la que me acompaño ese día, para que también la veas.... si tengo que subir una ahora de mayor.... en cuanto tenga un momento la busco y las escaneo... yo tenía unas muñecas preciosas y las cuidaba mucho.. quedaron todas en cuba, y mis primas las destrozaron... y que te parecio mi chani justo a mi lado..... era muy lindo mi perrito, aqui me tienes llorando como una tonta>!!!! Todavia lo tengo todo tan reciente en mi cabeza, que parece que fue ayer!!!!! Un abrazo y muchas gracias por tus animos!

Message by Maria E Pazos Alvarez | Oct 7th 2009

Mari ya estan las fotos, para que me conozcas!!!! Un abrazo...

Message by Maria E Pazos Alvarez | Oct 7th 2009

Mari Gracias por tu mensaje, desde luego los verdaderos heroes eran nuestros padres, pues mandar a un hijo solo a un pais extraño, y vivir todo lo que ellos vivieron requiere mucho corage, mi madre es muy cobardica, y sin embargo, ahi esta todo lo que lucho, pues mi padre estaba en busca y captura, y le toco todo a ella! Pero desdel luego aqui queda la hisotira para nuestros hijos y nietos. Un abrazo, ya te avisare cuando logre poner las fotos...

Message by Maria E Pazos Alvarez | Oct 6th 2009

Mary, ya puse mi historia, cuando queras la lees, ya te digo es muy larga, y la he puesto en Español e Inglés, me ha costado pero ahi esta..... NO he podido subir las fotos, debe de ser que tengo un formato que no acepta, pues subi dos y salen negras, y le he preguntado al administrador. Tenía mi última foto del cole de cuba, y mi primera de USA, la foto de mi perro y mi muñeca, y la de mi hermana y yo, y de las vecinitas, las que sus familias ayudaron a mi padre a marcharse. Le escribí al administrador y espero el me ayude a oder subirlas..... Un abrazo, y ya me contarás que te parece!!!!

Message by Maria E Pazos Alvarez | Oct 4th 2009

Maria, Aunque no nos conocemos, queria felicitarte por "LOLA", y por este medio recomendar a todos los PP que visiten Esperando conocerte pronto---JAM

Message by Justo Alejandro Martinez Monzon | Sep 30th 2009

Mary: Good for you. I'll make sure to check it out. I've been busy myself and I was just trying to touch base with PPs that I had not heard from lately. Go ahead and enjoy the inspiration. Cariños.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 30th 2009

Hi,'s the painting coming along? Still inspired?

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 30th 2009

Hola, Mary: We had a little scare with my mom yesterday, ended up in the ER and spent a night in the hospital. But today she woke up fairly well, passed the swallowing tests without trouble and was ready to come home. So we are back home and she's doing fine. Whew! - About my story: I arrived four months after my brother, who was 11 when he arrived. So we reunited at Florida City. He went through that surreal experience of just floating along. I knew exactly what was happening. By the time I left I had seen enough of the destruction that was taking place to have any illusions that we would be able to return to Cuba any time soon. I was not prepared for the missile crisis and the blockade, and the next two years with my parents kind of trapped in Cuba were very difficult. I am very thankful that they were able to leave when they did. -- So, is that distant music I hear your brushes dancing in colors over the canvas? Hasta pronto! yoli

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Sep 25th 2009

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