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:

Felix Diaz Alvarez

Felix's Story

After spending a few months in Kendall on September 13, 1962 a group of about 25 boys from Matecumbe and Kendall were sent to St. Vincent Home for Children’s in Lansing, Michigan, I had no clue at all...

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Hola Felix, Yo tambien estudie en el coligio Padre Felix Varela en Colon Matanzas del 55 al 60. Soy frances y ahora vivo en el Canada. Michel

Message by Michel Debruyne | Feb 5th 2013

Hola, mi nombre es Alberto Caraballo de la Portilla, mas conocido como Manzanita,y creo que nosotros fuimos amigos en Kendall yo naci en la ciudad de Matanzas.

Message by Alberto Caraballo | Feb 9th 2011

Felix says: To Gus Truyol comunicate conmigo estoy en la FL hasta el dia 28

Status update | Jan 22nd 2011

h[ felix donde estan los d sn vincent home tieners nietos yo 2 vidalito y gavy

Message by gus truyol | Jan 21st 2011

Felix says: To Frances Garcia I have no way of connecting with you, if you could join the network or find someone that could getintouch with me Igiveyou myEmail

Status update | Apr 23rd 2010

Hi Felix, I went to La Ciudad Estudiantil and came out of Cuba in 1962. My mother taught there, at the Escuela de Comercio, she taught English, her name is Marcelina Hernandez. Wondering if you would remember her or me. Would love to connect with some people from Colon its been a lot of years since I have heard about anyone.

Message by Frances Garcia | Apr 22nd 2010

Félix, se que te sorprenderá esta nota pero es motivo para que pienses que jamás he dejado de pensar en Uds., en tu mami y tu papi. Soy Julia Carretero, tu vecina de la calle el Correo, central España Republicana, ¿recuerdas?. Vivo en Mérida, México, me urge saber de Uds., estoy de visita en Cuba, me regreso el domingo 28, vivo con mi hija y una nieta hermosa. Mi celular es 9999920246 en México y en Cuba puedes llamarme al celular 005353397624 mi correo Espero me hables para saber de Uds., de sus vidas, esto me parece un sueño después de tantos años, siempre los he tenido en mi mente, recibe un fuerte abrazo y muchos cariños de tu amiga Julia C.

Message by Julia Carretero | Mar 24th 2010

Hi Felix, I went to school with a few kids from St Vincents Home in Lansing. I wondered if you had any pictures from there. I am currently looking for Gisela and Josefina Dieguez. I am a little older than you. I graduated from John A Gabriels HS with Gisela. She also went to St Thomas Aquinas in 9th grade. Also my friend Nancy Wendling married a Jorge Diaz in Lansing. Thanks, Karen

Message by Karen Ryder | Dec 1st 2009

Hi Felix, I saw your request for information on the Kendall camp. The original address for the camp that we have is 11025 SW 84th St., Miami, Fl. Today, it belongs to Dade County and it is a park called Kendall Indian Hammock Park, 11395 SW 79th St. Miami, Fl 33173 phone 305 596 9324. Operation Pedro Pan Group Inc. an organization where I belong, usually has an annual picnic on the park,around March or April. It is difficult to recognize the buildings that are still there, but you can check the profile of Eloisa Echazabal Pi, she posted a picture of one of the buildings where the girls were housed. Hope I answer your question! Love,

Message by Carmencita Romanach | Oct 10th 2009

Former Camp Kendall address: 11025 SW 84th Street. Currently: Indian Hammocks Park.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Oct 10th 2009

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