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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Querida Carmen: Gracias por compartir las fotos de la boda...muy linda familia, guapos los NIÑOS, fotos espectaculares........Felicidades!!! Un abrazo, Otmara

Message by Otmara Capote | Nov 20th 2009

Carmen se me olvido poner el nombre so el mensaje anonymous soy yo tere

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Nov 20th 2009

Querida Carmen Las fotos estan lindisimas Paloma esta preciosa y Diego ni se diga Felicitaciones para todos Cariños para ti y Guillermo

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Nov 20th 2009

Hi Carmen congratulations, las fotos estan preciosas. We missed you sunday at breakfast.Love

Message by Sarah Consuelo Aguilar Valdes | Nov 20th 2009

Carmen, que lindas las fotos! Parecen modelos de revista todos ve que fue una boda muy bonita y feliz.....muchas felicidades a toda la familia. Un abrazo

Message by Carmencita Romanach | Nov 20th 2009

Carmen. "Felicidades por la Boda". Que fotos mas buenas, se ve que la pasaron super.Que familia tan linda tienes, como se decia en Cuba "No tienes que esconder a nadie"Les deseo lo mejor a todos! Carinos MELVIN

Message by Melvin F Noriega Plasencia | Nov 20th 2009

Carmen y Guille, los felicitos de nuevo. Que lindas estan las fotos de la boda. Que la pasen bien manana sabado, nosotros no podemos ir, asi que nos vemos en estos dias. Carinos, de Ricardo y mio. Sil

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Nov 20th 2009

Gracias Carmen.Que ustedes me recuerden con carino y hermandad es mi mejor regalo.En estos dias he estado acordandome de mi pequeno companero de vuelo dale un abrazo de mi parte. Carinos MELVIN

Message by Melvin F Noriega Plasencia | Nov 19th 2009

Welcome back! I hear that Miami's Top Model is on the cover of Vogue this that so???

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Nov 18th 2009

Carmen, gracias por las felicitaciones, espero que todo te haya salido bien bonito en la boda, ya nos veremos pronto para que me cuentes. Un abrazo

Message by Carmencita Romanach | Nov 16th 2009

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