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:

Victoria Fernandez Rodriguez

General Information
Current Name
Victoria Fernandez Rodriguez
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Victoria Fernandez Rodriguez
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Saturday, December 8, 1962
Relocated To
CWB Florida City
Haiti Pedro Pan
Victoria has volunteered to help the children of Haiti. Find out how you can help, too.

Victoria's Story

I came with my twin sister, Maria Del Carmen Fernandez in October 11,1962 in one of the last flights from Cuba. I went to The Florida city camp and stayed there for three years. Then, they closed th...

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Leave a public message for Victoria.

Victoria has signed up to volunteer for the Haiti Pedro Pan group.

Status update | Jan 19th 2010

Victoria, ya te escribi en cuanto puedas respondeme para poderte mandar una foto que tengo tuya con Sandra, esa fue un verano que fuimos al Southwest Miami High School, no se si te recuerdas pero estoy segura que cuando mires la foto te daras cuenta enseguida, pon tus fotos para verte. Damele un bezo a tu hermana Maria del Carmen y tu recibes otro. Silvia Budejen. --- Recuerdo cuando vivian frente al Miami High School.

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Aug 29th 2009

Hola Victoria, yo soy la tocaya de tu hermana, Maria del Carmen Fernandez, vivimos juntas en la casa de Sixto. Mi hna es Mimi. te recuerdas?? yo era la mas chiquita de la casa. Vivo en Miami, tambien soy realtor hace 30 años, Mtge. broker y property mger. Hace 30 años me case con un español, tengo una hija Dra. en psycologia clinica. Me encantaria que nos encontrasemos. Dejame saber si te acuerdas de mi. Besos a tu hermana. Mimi tiene 3 nietos tambien.

Message by Maria del C. Marin | Aug 23rd 2009

Hi Victoria, I remember you and your sister very well. You were both very talented and could sing like I never heard.. We have a lot in common. I came a month and day before you (August 12, 1962). My parents arrived in July of 1964 and I left the camp. I also graduated from Miami Senior High. I got married in 1971, and I am still married to him, but you beat me at the number of children, I only have two boys. I am also a Real Estate Broker, but no grandchidren yet. Where do you live? I am in California. Tell me about your sister.. Warm regards,

Message by Niurka A Strong | Aug 5th 2009

Hi Victoria, soy Silvia Budejen yo fui amiguita tuya y de tu hermanita Maria del Carmen, fuimos juntas a Lourdes Academy y despues tuvimos contacto en el Miami High no se si recuerdas, yo las recuerdos a las dos con mucho carino, bezos Silvia

Message by Silvia Budejen Reyes | Jul 26th 2009

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