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 Maria del Carmen, me dio mucha alegria poder entrar a esta pajina y poder verte y las fotos de todas nosotras tus 15 que yo los baile y otros eventos, me puso muy triste lo de tu hermana, pues me parece estarlas viendo a ustedes juntas en Florida City, yo estava en casa de Rodriguez Walling y despues con Delia Diaz de Villar, pues muchos bezos y abrazos, Silvia G. Budejen Reyes

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Jul 25th 2009

Hola Maria del Carmen fui vecina tuya y de tu hermana yo vivi en Casa Castillo yo soy Tere Diaz, siento lo de tu hermana me parece estar mirandola en nuestro uniforme (verde) muy emocionante tu historia, las fotos fantasticas ya que traen muchos recuerdos. Carinos Tere

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Jul 23rd 2009

Hola Carmencita, Si tienes razon. Esa soy yo parada al lado de Celia Capote. Cuanto gusto! Tienes una familia muy bonita. Felicidades! Barbara

Message by Barbara F Wessels | Jul 22nd 2009

Hello Carmen, my name is Gisela, I think that one of the girls in your quinces is my sister Barbara, she is standing next to Celia Capote and in front of Fernando Collado

Message by Aurea Gisela Alma (Palacios) | Jul 22nd 2009

Hola Carmen: Ayer fui al desayuno y la pasamos muy bien. Conoci a Otmara y me reencontre con Tere Gonza Chalito los hermanos Noriega etc etc etc. Pero un dato curioso cuando ya nos ibamos nos pusimos a hablar con una de las waitress y nos dijo que su mama iba a las Teresias de Santa Clara, me dijo el nombre pero ahora no lo recuerdo. Un beso

Message by Silvia E Portu | Jul 19th 2009

Hola Carmen: Tuve la esperanza de verte hoy en el desayuno del grupo......Bueno, trata de ir la proxima vez. I missed you!!! Otmara Capote

Message by Otmara Capote | Jul 18th 2009

07/16/09-Feliz Santo Day or birthday!!!! Un beso, Otmara Capote

Message by Otmara Capote | Jul 16th 2009

Hola carmencita, Gracias por venir a conectarte conmigo. Espero estes bien. No se exatamente a donde queda PineCrest en la Florida. Mi familia viven en Westchester, Miami Lakes, Pembroke Pines y yo vivo en California. Estoy esperando que hopefully la economia de este pais cambie un poco y las casa vuelvan a subir un poquito de precio para poderme ir a vivir por alla. No se todavia si me regreso a la Florida (estoy pensando en Orlando o Tampa) o si me voy al Norte de las Carolinas en donde tengo familia tambien y muchas amistades. Veremos lo que el destino nos trae. Bueno cuentame de ti para empezar a conocerte. Yo vivo con mis mascotas, tengo un Rottweiler, 6 gatos, 4 periquitos, 4 finches, 4 gallinas, 2 gallos y tambien me visita de vez en cuando una lechusa por las noches. Me gustan muchisimos los animales. Mi propieada es grande y puedo tener todos esas mascotas. Ya estoy retirado del gobierno federal. Bueno por ahora esto es todo. Gusto de poder escribire. Cuidate mucho, Tu nuevo hermanito Peter Pan, Jesus Dario

Message by Jesus D Perez Garcia | Jul 15th 2009

Hello Carmencita! Your comments about your Father's being taken prisoner sends chills through me. At least we knew where my Dad was, though I remember my Mother having to call different places to find out, but we knew. I can't imagine how frantic your family must have been looking for your Dad! You know we might just be related. My grandfather was Fernando Valdivia Hernandez and his father was Rafael Valdivia. Ask around in your family maybe the older ones might remember those names, who knows? I found a cousin in Miami, Tony Madrigal. He has his family tree and he and I are are not only related through my Mother but also through my Dad! I'll email youmy little tree I made several years back and you can check the names if you'd like. By the way I loved your story as did so many others and I'm glad you contacted me. I agree with you. Sancti-Spiritus was charming, established in 1514 it had old world written all over down to he cobblestone streets of the old part. Thank you for saying that. Carinos from your new Pedro Pan Sister. Mary

Message by Maria Petronila Hernandez Mills | Jul 15th 2009

Thanks Anonymous, you made my day.

Message by Carmen Valdivia | Jul 14th 2009

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