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:

Haydee Torres Manresa

General Information
Current Name
Haydee Torres Mestre
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Haydee Torres Manresa
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Tuesday, September 12, 1961
Relocated To
Kendall - Buffalo, NY

Haydee's Story

My sister, Aleida, and I arrived on September 12, 1961; I was 10 and she was 7. I remember very little of our departure from Cuba and our arrival in Miami. I don’t remember who greeted us and took u...

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Que bueno que me escribiste, hace tiempo que no sabemos de ustedes despues que tu mama se puso malita ya casi ni hablaba con mami, y despues nos enteramos de que habia fallecido. Te dire que el dia de mi despedida de soltera me dieron la noticia de lo de tu papa, yo lo queria mucho, tengo varias fotos con el en el central Washington anntes de tu nacer. Te contare que papi fallecio el dia 9 de mayo, ya estaba bastante mayor pero estaba bien y con una memoria que envidiaba, se sintio mal lo llevamos con el rescue y en unas horas fallecio, por lo menos no sufrio. Mami esta banstante desconsolada per que podemos hacer, el tiempo dira ella tiene 91 ahora. Mis hermanas muy bien, Neyda tiene 2 varones pero no nietos, Marta tiene 3 hijas y 5 nietos, yo tengo 2 hijas y 4 nietos, espero me escribas y me cuentes de Lourdes y de Aleida, tambien de ti y tu familia, besos, Mercy

Message by Mercy Campuzano | Jun 8th 2009

por casualidad tu papa se llamaba Plinio y tu mama Margot?, si es asi yo te conozco tus padres y los mios fueron muy buenos amigos, escribeme a mi correo, para saber si eres esa poersona., yo soy la hija de Dominguez del centrral Washington en Cuba

Message by Mercy Campuzano | Jun 5th 2009

Gracias por tu respuesta Haydee, no me di cuenta que es tu nombre de casada. Los Mestres eran los duenos de la estacion de televison CMQ en la Habana. Ani escribio un libro tambiem se llama "Mis Tres Adioses" no lo he leido todavia lo tiene una tia mia en Miami y por lo que ella me cuenta cada vez que se pone a leer tiene la caja de kleenex al lado, ya tu sabes! Pero Rice and Beans esta muy bueno y muy triste. Le contare a Martha en el proximo email que vaz a leer su libro. Saludos de tu hermana PP. Mary

Message by Maria Petronila Hernandez Mills | Jun 4th 2009

Hola Haydee, por casualidad eres tu quizas prima de Ani Mestre que vive en Argentina? Yo la conozco a ella por email atravez de Martha Russ que escribio "Growing up Cuban - Beans and Rice" Saludos Maria Hernandez Mills

Message by Maria Petronila Hernandez Mills | Jun 4th 2009

Hi! You wrote to Eloisa in reference to Buffalo New York. I went to Buffalo in 1961 from Florida City camp. Do we know each other?

Message by cynthia | May 30th 2009

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