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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Que guataca tu eres! Detras the esas miradas tan serias, existe una mente maquinando las maldades...yo no me creo que ninguno de esos eran tan angelicales.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Oct 23rd 2009

Carmen, muy buenos dias. Por cierto que en este momento preciso me disponia a escribirle a Silvia explicandole que se me ha hecho imposible colocar la foto en mi "profile". Llevo mucho rato intentandolo sin exito alguno. Saludos, Jose Antonio.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Oct 23rd 2009

Carmen: Le hemos tolerado de todo pero estos mensajes machistas no van. Tenemos que unirnos para empezar la batalla del anti-machismo. Fijate, el 'friendly ghost' que se pierde y despues aparece por ahi, le da los buenos dias a los hombres con 'distinguido' 'don' 'ilustre' y nosotras que somos 'chopped liver'? Yo te lo dije a ti bien claro, 'del agua mansa librame Dios que del agua mala me libro yo'.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Oct 23rd 2009

Gracias por tu atencion y carino, pasamos un sabado maravilloso, cuando puedas pon las fotos te veo el sabado Carinos Tere Diaz

Message by Tere Diaz | Oct 19th 2009

Buenos dias , ya llegue al tarbajo. estoy a su disposicion. que tenga un buen dia. it was nicwe talking to you. do not forget to post that picture with of all of you by the bus in FLORIDA CITY. SEE YOU SOON FERNANDO [ THE NEW BEHAVE ONE ]

Message by Fernando L Collado Gonzalez | Oct 19th 2009

Querida Carmen, Gracias por la tarde tán maravillosa que el sábado nos brindaron Guillermo y tú. ¿Y las fotos? ¿Y el chaleco? Sentí mucha alegria al ver a Marisol y Silvia, ambas se ven muy bien. De nuevo, muchas gracias. Cariños

Message by Teresita Gonzalez-Angulo | Oct 19th 2009

Hi Carmen, Por supuesto que me acuerdo de ti. Estoy tan emocionada con tener la oportunity de ver a mis amigas y encontrarnos otra vez. Viva la internet

Message by Luisa A. Llovet Varela | Oct 17th 2009

Carmen, primero que todo, quiero darte las gracias a ti y Guille por ser tan amables y brindarnos su hogar, la pasamos super, gracias por todo. Love, Sil

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Oct 17th 2009

Carmen el mensaje se me fue antes de despedirme, O.K. mi hermanita, manana si Dios quiere nos vemos. Love, Sil

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Oct 16th 2009

Carmen, ya le escribi a todos esos ninos malos y remalos que nos han dicho viejas, son unos falta de respeto, de Fernandito lo espero pero de Marquito no lo creo, yo creo que se esta contagiando con Fernan, deja que manana lo vea que se prepare.

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Oct 16th 2009

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