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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¡Hola Carmen! Por favor, envíame la dirección de Florida City. Estoy trabajando en un documento acerca de todos los campamentos. ¡Gracias! Cariños, Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Sep 27th 2009

LOL my apologies for ignoring you. No...not this weekend sorry I always have my head up my "clouds" is the weekend of the Teresianas and I am hoping Ralph gets out of work that day so that we can get together for dinner that Saturday night. More will be revealed!!! You and Anita make plans. I'll just go along.

Message by Teresita E Reuter | Sep 26th 2009

Queridas hermanitas Susy y Carmen solo una notica para decirles que lucen muy bien las dos. Tratare de llamarlas mas adelante. Como ya saben estoy muy ocupada y ahora tengo a mi mama en el hospital. Susy espero que tu dia transcurra con paz y amor te tendre en mi pensamiento. Las quiero

Message by Silvia E Portu | Sep 26th 2009

Santica...please don't listen to rumors...check anything else with me before you react to anything you hear..I don't think that's true but I'll investigate for you....please please don't do anything you might regret.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 25th 2009

No prima, todavía no, el mes que viene...

Message by Rafael Quintero Valdivia | Sep 24th 2009

Hey Carmencita, ¡Qué alegría me dió verte en el desayuno! Fuistes la única cara que reconocí sin ninguna ayuda. You are looking great too! Those are my husband's granddaughters from his first marriage, which live in Atlanta Georgia. He had two kids (7 & 9), which I practically raised, together with our son, Tyson, who is now 30 and lives in Ft. Lauderdale. Bueno amiga, nos vemos en el próximo desayuno. Cariños, Mari

Message by MARISOL KUTNER | Sep 24th 2009

Mi hermanita linda! Si con favor de Dios tengo planeado ir al desayuno de Octubre, asi que nos veremos de nuevo, tengo muchas ganas de darte un fuerte abrazo. Le escribi a Isa porque se que ella lo recibe. Un bezote, Sil

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Sep 22nd 2009

Hola mi hermanita, ya puse mi foto de mi boda, tambien mi fotografo fue el mismo que el tuyo (Cesar)te digo que estas bella en tu boda y en las fotos del desayuno tambien, Un bezote, Sil

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Sep 21st 2009

Carmen: I was flabbergasted to read you also had a scalp burn from a permanent. Although I’m sure we are not the only ones, I had never met anyone who had that experience. Things became worse for me when my mother stepped out of the shop to run an errand. I still wonder why I took all the pain and only whimpered a little instead of hollering. The peluquera was busy chatting with other clients and just gave me dirty looks. I still remember what the place looked and smelled like. It was in the middle of Havana, maybe calle Neptuno. A cousin of ours lived above the shops and from her balcony one could see the tops of the streetcars and the cables that their big antennas were running on. – All those memories become visible with just the flash of someone’s memories.- Speaking of which, I loved the photo of the communion breakfast table. I have a story about that day too –for another time! Come to think of it, maybe my permanent was also done around the time of my first communion, in which case I was seven, not nine as I first wrote. –Actually, I think you look pretty good in the picture, in spite of the curly mane and Silvia looks so cute! yo

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Sep 20th 2009

Hola Carmen y gracias por toda tu informacion entonces tu debes conocer tambien a Reinaldo Alfonso (el Camaguey) y a su esposa Alina, todos nosotros somos "mutual friends" e intercanbiamos e-mails a diario, el esta en los Pedro Pans website, y hoy es su cumpleanos. carinos. Henry

Message by Henry/Enrique Rodriguez (EL MUSICO) | Sep 20th 2009

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