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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Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house..........Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Message by Carmen Valdivia | Dec 24th 2009

Carmen estoy seguro que puedes encontrar tus respuestas en el SOLAR DE NOSOTROS. que no se te olvide de poner el nombre de GUILLE, en todas las preguntas ok. te ganastes la loteria con ese hombre [ te lo digo sinceramente ok] ahora eso si no vayas a poner el nombre de SUSY en nada ok.[ yo se que tan pronto ella lea esto me dira algo] ella nunca se pierde nada.!!!!! se me olvido que este lugar es publico y que todos leen los mensajes WELL THATS MY LUCK!!!!!!! como dise DORIS DAY. que sera sera!!!!!!!

Message by Fernando L Collado Gonzalez | Dec 18th 2009

Yo quiero los tacones esos!!!! Que linda esta la otra foto de Navidad delante del nacimiento!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Dec 17th 2009

Si, Me gustaria conocerte. Entonces a lo mejor nos veremos en Orlando. Estrella

Message by Estrella (Rodriguez) Pereira | Dec 9th 2009

Carmen: I think we graduated from Miami High the same year!! 1971, right? Estrella

Message by Estrella (Rodriguez) Pereira | Dec 7th 2009

To each and every one of my PP brothers and sisters, Have an awesome Thanksgiving Day. God Bless you all. Love,

Message by Carmen Valdivia | Nov 25th 2009

Hola, Carmen! En esas fotos lo veo y a todos BELLOS, BELLOS, BELLOS. Parece algo de ensueño. Claro, en Puerto Rico, con gente tan buena y bien parecida, ¿que otra cosa puede ser? --Me encanta tu vestido.(Menos mal que las comelatas de la reunión no te impidieron que te sirviera, pues hubo peligro.) Fue un verdadero placer conocerte y compartir contigo, sobre todo la emocionante visita a Florida City. Wow! Todavia me erizo de recordarlo.-- Que tengan un muy Feliz Dia de Dar Gracias. Cariñosamente, Yoli

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Nov 22nd 2009

Carmen, felicidades, tienes una familia muy bonita. Saludos Manuel

Message by Manuel J. Izquierdo Rodriguez | Nov 21st 2009

Carmen y Guillermo, qué fotos tan lindas!!! Se vé que la boda estuvo muy bonita. ¡Felicidades! Nos vemos luego en la gala. Cariños, Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Nov 21st 2009

Carmen y Guillermo si las fotos son unas indicaciones esa boda quedo lindisima y me alegro mucho por ustedes dos. que dios los bendiga por siempre es muy dificil en esta vida establisar amistades tarde en la vida como la de ustedes. gracias de nuevo por todo lo que hisieron esa semana cuando todos nos reunimos todos los que participaron son los responsables por lo bueno que quedo todo. abrasos para ustedes dos su amigo y hermano pedro pan FERNANDO.

Message by Fernando L Collado Gonzalez | Nov 21st 2009

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