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 tu mensaje. I was so sorry to hear about Isabel (me parece estarla viendo). Leí tu página y se me erizaron los pelos...such a familiar scenario... Tu poema está precio también. Vero y yo pensamos ir al próximo desayuno, así que trata de ir para compartir una rato juntas. XX Marisol

Message by MARISOL KUTNER | Aug 28th 2009

Hi Carmen, Perdona que no me haya comunicado con Uds. pero he tenido unos dias archi complicados. Mañana les mando las fotos sin falta. Cariños para Guillermo y para ti un beso de tu hermana PedroPanera. Tere

Message by Teresita Gonzalez-Angulo | Aug 28th 2009

Hola Carmen, de verdad que esto es increible, me puse a leer para ver si recordava algunas caras y entre a tu profile y me has hecho hasta llorar cuando lei esa bella poesia que le hicistes a tu padre, que talento el poder expresarse asi. No se si tu te acuerdas de mi pero ayer da la casualidad que fui a ver a Silvia Budejen mi amiga del alma de Florida City, estuvimos hablando tanto y lo que nos falta, y Silvia me estuvo hablando de ti. Bueno espero poderte ver en alguna de las reuniones, yo pienso ir al proximo desayunmo pues Norma Callejas me llamo para dejarme saber, tambien Silvia me dijo de las actividades que tienen planeadas estoy segura que en alguna te vere. Cariños, Vero.

Message by Veronica Garcia | Aug 27th 2009

Hola Maria del Carmen, gracias por tus palabras tan bonitas. Saludos, Marcos

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Aug 26th 2009

Hi Carmen, como estas? solo queria saludarte pues hace dia que no se de ti, manana te voy a llamar para darte mi numbero de telefono yo aqui con los nietos y este vicio tan grande. Bezitos de tu hermanita, Sil

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Aug 25th 2009

amiga esa foto la encontre en el baul de los recuerdos, ya no estabamos en el campamento, creo que tenia 17. Pero no me parezco a esa en nada a pesar que soy como el vino.jaja,ja

Message by Maria del C. Marin | Aug 25th 2009

Hola Santa Clara en el Exilio, como estas? Puse una foto de mi mama, para que la veas.

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Aug 25th 2009

Carmen, you are so right! The hairdos were just as bad -or worse even than the rollers. In Albuquerque my older fostersister was going to beauty school and she used to practice on my hair and her other sister. She specialized on those big balloon hairdos, and with my curly hair she had to use the biggest rollers. I let her practice on my hair, but as soon as she left I brushed it out --also because my brother could not resist the temptation to drop something into our foot-high teased hair helmet that would get stuck in there, like a clump of sticky New Mexico clay or a millipede. I can still hear the echoes of my foster sisters' screams...The only reason I didn't let them kill him was that I'd promised my parents I'd take care of him. It wasn't easy.

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Aug 24th 2009

Hi Carmem, I was just reading the message you sent to Silvia. I saw the pictures of the Fiesta Patriotica, and you mentioned the Siboney dance. I remember that so well, I danced on that one and I had the worse sunburn that day and those clothes just killed me. Wish I could see some of those pictures...Love,

Message by Niurka A Strong | Aug 24th 2009

Te pudiera decir, hello Carmen, pero eres tan buena gente que te tengo que explicar mas. (aunque tu no lo creas) no soy un "character" como tu piensas. Es que hay veces que jugamos un papel que no podemos explicar mucho. Primero, me adelante y compre el ultimo libro de Ivonne; Despues no fui al desayuno y me perdi saludar a tu esposo y a ti. Al borrar mis escrito, tuve que terminar lo que estaba haciendo. Asi es que aqui estoy otra vez, pero esta vez, en el lado de 100fuegos. El Versallero de Fernando, me dejo solo, me embarco, con todas las muchachas de Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Las Villas, etc. El ataque fue tan feroz, que tuve que sacar el panuelo blanco. Como esta la sonrisa de la Mona Lisa? MP

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Aug 24th 2009

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