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:

Ileana P Ramos Riera

General Information
Current Name
Ileana P Caballero
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Ileana P Ramos Riera
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Friday, March 2, 1962
Relocated To
CWB Florida City

Ileana P's Story

I left Cuba with my older sister Viviam on March 2, 1962. We spent a very short time in Florida City (about one month) and were sent with 2 other sets of sisters to a Catholic orphanage in Greenville...

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Status update | Feb 1st 2014


Message by THERESA CHOQUETTE | Jul 22nd 2013

HELLO, ILEANA This is Theresa Choquette I was in the orphanage with you, viviam, Nancy and Clara. You should remember my brother Bobby, you had a crush on him. PLEASE get in touch with me. I'll love to chat with you about old times, can't imagine it's been almost 50 years.

Message by THERESA CHOQUETTE | Jul 22nd 2013

Ileana: Please, check out: Let me know what you think. Is this the orphanage you and your sister were at?

Message by Jose Antonio Amaro Reyes | Jun 15th 2013

Hi Ileana, Your last name was Ramos, correct. This is Nancy of Nancy and Clara. A recent friend gave me this website suggesting I join, and sure enough your name came up. I read your story with great interest, although I've always believed we were the last to leave the orphanage. Mom was not allowed to leave Cuba until 1966, since the flights were cut due to the Bay of Pigs. Write back, it'll be interesting to hear your opinion.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Sep 6th 2010

Hi Ileana, Just wondering if you received the e-mail I sent you and Vivian on Dec. 29th. I'm not sure if I have the right e-mail address. Keep in touch!

Message by Maria Elena Hoen | Jan 13th 2010

Hola Ileana, It is so nice to hear from you! I've been thinking so much about our stay in Rhode Island. How is Viviam? Cristina and I live in Minnesota. I hope to keep in touch

Message by Maria Elena Hoen | Dec 15th 2009

Ileana, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. Such sweet sorrow with a fairy tale-like ending! It is magical.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Jul 14th 2009

I don't know u but ur story is more or less like mine, we were very lucky in our beca and everyday I think of the sacrifice all or our parents made to give us liberty and a future in this great country.. Carmen Alonso Concepcion

Message by Carmen A Alonso Concepcion | May 19th 2009

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