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:

Sergio Jose Perez Garmendia

General Information
Current Name
Sergio Jose Perez Garmendia
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Sergio Jose Perez Garmendia
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Wednesday, February 14, 1962
Relocated To
92 NW 28 St, Miami
Stayed With
Rodolfo Garmendia, uncle

Sergio Jose's Story

I am from Holguin, Cuba and attended school at Los Maristas. After the intervention of the Church my grandparents and parents decided to send us to the States. The day my sister and I left, I remember...

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Sergio Jose has updated their profile.

Status update | Feb 13th 2011

Hi,'s been a while since we've corresponded. Are you going to the reunion in November?

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 30th 2009

sent u the rest of the message by e-mail.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Aug 27th 2009

YOU GOT ME! You figured it out's Granny! A couple of weeks ago, we were joking around because Ileana (Minico)Arriola had posted a post card of a very heavy woman

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Aug 27th 2009

Yes, Sergio Jose, we were all very pained by Rudy's passing...I know that both Rodolfo (I never met him) and Maggie are devastated. Rudy hizo muchas travesuras con un primito mio que se llama Nelson cuando eran colaban en casa de mi tia cuando ella no estaba y bueno, que te puedo decir...They were true rascals.Also one of my cousins is married to Rudy's cousin, Nino. Please clarify, did you arrive 3/23/62 or 2/14/62? I'm sure that originally I saw 3/23/62 but today it looked like it said 2/14/62...of course, at our age, I'm not too sure of what we see...ha! ha! Hope maybe to meet you in the future. Will you be going to the Nov reunion?

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Aug 25th 2009

Hello, Sergio Jose....I'm a friend of Maggie (your uncle's exwife) what a small world. I recently spoke with her, after Rudy's tragic death, and told her about seeing your story. I believe it previously said that your arrival was on 3/23/62 which is the same day that my brothers and I arrived but I guess I must have been mistaken.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Aug 25th 2009

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