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, gracias por la nota, tienes mucha razon, todayvia hay muchas personas que no creen que en nuestra patria haya o este pasando esas atrocidades. Gracias por conciderarme como un hermano mas. Carinos, Manuel

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Sep 2nd 2009

shu...I tried to put an album of the ex-difunto and me at Red lobster but of course I couldn't, but if you want to see it go to and you will find it's cute.. love you from Las Vegas to you all.. VIVA LAS VEGAS !!!

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Sep 2nd 2009

Hi Carmen, Decidí mandarte este mensaje porque no he oido de ti después del email que te envie a tu dirección personal. Please, if you didn't get it let me know. Cariños.

Message by Teresita Gonzalez-Angulo | Sep 2nd 2009

Carmen se acaba de registrar Isela Hernandez, le mande una notica para ver si es la que conocemos. Ella esta en la foto del grupo. Chiao

Message by Silvia E Portu | Sep 1st 2009

I'll try to find a pic that won't scare the living daylights out of everyone and that fits in the small space alloted!!! I was just on the phone with my mom and told her about you maybe meeting on Saturday. She used to have a friend by the name of Valdivia so that may at least give her some memory. Actually, I think you should wear un cartel colgando con tu nombre escrito, preferiblemente, con letras de 12 pulgadas y a lo mejor te encuentra. Y de paso te sacas una foto asi para tener algo mas que bonchear por aqui!!!! I know you hate me already!!!!!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 1st 2009

Carmen, hablando de solares, leí en algún lugar que nuestra estimada Yolanda dijo que ella trajinea en chancletas por este solar pedropanero y me ocasionó mucha risa. José Antonio.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Sep 1st 2009

Gracias, Mona Lisa. Saludos a Guillermo.

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Sep 1st 2009

Carmen, saludos. Aquí me ves, haciendo acto de presencia, porque Susana me hacía por desaparecido y, según ella, ya estaba a punto de llamar a las autoridades para que montaran un "all points bulletin". José Antonio.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Sep 1st 2009

You could be sorry to meet the real Susy!!!! I'll pound on my mother again to get her to go. I'll look forward to your e-mail whenever and the pics...Cariños,

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 1st 2009

Que bueno es oir de mi hermanita PP. Esa es Milagritos, mi hermanita. Murio el pasado Noviembre unos dias antes de su cumplenos el dia 27. Abrazo, Marcos

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Sep 1st 2009

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