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:

Miguel E Lopez Zarate

General Information
Current Name
Miguel E Lopez Zarate
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Miguel E Lopez Zarate
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Wednesday, August 9, 1961
Relocated To
Stayed With
Catholic Organization

Miguel E's Story

I arrived in Miami on August 9, 1961 with

my two younger brothers, I was 13 years old.

Last scene that I remember of my beautiful

country was that of the two milicianos (soldiers) who checked our ...

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Miguel E's News Feed

Leave a public message for Miguel E.

Bienvenido Miguel. Your story of the final scene at the airport reminded me of something that happened to me: A woman asked me if I could carry a small box of "boniatillo" (remember that confection made with the sweet white potatoes we call boniato). She had two boxes to take to her son in New York and she worried that the "security" would not let her take them both. Innocent that I was, I said, "Sure!" The time came to go through the inspection and she went ahead of several people and me to the farthest table while I ended up with the first of the line of milicianos at the inspection tables. I watched as her miliciano took away her box of boniatillo and other things and I became worried that I might be in trouble for trying to do someone a favor. But the fellow who inspected my bag was a gentle man, he was polite, barely looked at my things without digging into my few clothes. And he did not say anything about the box of boniatillo or about a little bag of cheap jewelry I was carrying, inside which was a good, small gold watch, gift of my godmother. However, the guy next to him saw a silver chain I was wearing with the medallion of my Marian congregation, so he reached over and asked me to take it off and hand it to him. He told me I was not allowed to take that out. I pleaded and bargained with him that I would part with the chain and that the medallion was not solid silver, that it was a treasured memento of my faith, to please let me at least keep that. He scratched it to confirm that it was only metal with a silver coating, but he knew the chain was silver. With a smirk he handed me the medallion while he shamelessly put the chain in his shirt pocket. The “good” guy next to him gave me a quick sympathetic look –what else could he do? The woman’s son got at least the one box of boniatillo I “passed” for her, but I shudder to think what would have happened to me if there had been some forbidden thing hidden in that box.

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Jul 31st 2011

Miguel, I remember you and your brothers from Maoriana. I seem to remember you used to go to St. anthony's. Wish you and your brothers had been able to joinnus at reunion.

Message by Humberto Rapado | Jul 28th 2011

Bienvenido Miguel! Al fin! acuerdate de mandarme el email!

Message by George Mas Enjamio | Jul 28th 2011

Miguel E has updated their profile.

Status update | Jul 28th 2011

Miguel E has joined the Pedro Pan Network. Please welcome them!

Status update | Jul 28th 2011

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