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 del Carmen Valdivia Martinez

General Information
Current Name
Carmen Valdivia
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Maria del Carmen Valdivia Martinez
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Wednesday, August 8, 1962
Relocated To
CWB Florida City
Stayed With
Casa Suarez
Haiti Pedro Pan
Maria del Carmen has volunteered to help the children of Haiti. Find out how you can help, too.

Maria del Carmen's Story

Florida Heritage Landmark Dedication Ceremony, Historical Reference

By Carmen Valdivia,

OPPG Historic Committee Chairperson

OPPG Board of Directors

Florida City Alumni

The state of Florida ha...

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Maria del Carmen, que bonito te queda el sombrerito de Mambisa. Estoy reclutando voluntarios o voluntarias para la lucha contra la dictadura de los Castros. Estarias interesada?

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Mar 11th 2010

Maria del Carmen has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Mar 11th 2010

Maria del Carmen has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Mar 8th 2010

la de da de da

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Feb 26th 2010

...LAS VILLAS...por Francisco Henriquez. Villa Clara! la natura te ha dado tanta belleza, que embriagas con sutileza desde el monte a la llanura. Dicen que en agricultura eres grande maravilla, y en tu suelo cada villa es romance y embeleso, cuando te satura el beso tibio, del Habanilla.

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Feb 25th 2010


Message by Fernando L Collado Gonzalez | Feb 4th 2010

Carmen ahi tienes prueba que SUSY [ LA VIEJA O MEJOR DICHO LA MAS MAYOOR] no quiere que yo fuera a esa reunion pues ella fue la que me dijo que era en MARZO. no se lo digas ni le enseñes este mensaje para que no se ponga braba ok. ya que todo lo que escribe aqui es privado!!!!! esto me lo dijo PACO. como este el santo de tu pobre esposo?

Message by Fernando L Collado Gonzalez | Feb 4th 2010

Duchess...Pues donde sea que los consigan fritos para ahi mismo se pueden ir....PS. no se supone que usted este trabajando en vez de chismeando por aqui???? Ok, ok...don't need to slap me!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Feb 4th 2010

Carmen: Creo que la confusion es grandisima pero yo lo voy aclarar porque creo que lo entendi.....El Ternerito querido le dijo a Fernando que no era Marzo si no Abril, A su vez, Fernando confundio a Eloisa ya que esta pensaba que el era cute. En verdad, La Elo le hizo creer a Fernando que yo los habia traido a todos ustedes al mundo y estaba simpatizandose con Fern con lo de cute cuando a mi me dijo que despues de conocerlo ahora sabia que no se habia perdido algo. Lo cual tu entendistes que yo y tu mama somos de la misma edad.. y han hechos todos a pensar aqui que yo pase de insecurity para social security...Por lo tanto, creo que es un buen dia para que se queden en la cocina a freir esparragos! Al final, el culpable de todo eso es el Duque de Pinecrest.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Feb 4th 2010

I can't believe you told Emelina that you can't believe everything you read here!!! We always speak the truth, only the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me Fernandin!!!!!Ha! ha!... Look the trouble I got in yesterday because someone believed one of our games!!!!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Feb 4th 2010

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