Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art + Design Presents the inaugural Exhibition at the new Cultural Legacy Gallery, Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres MOAD - Cuban Diaspora Celia L Credit: Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in collaboration with Tico Torres Miami, July 28, 2014 - The Museum of Art + Design (MOAD) at Miami Dade College (MDC) presents Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres. The inaugural exhibition will open to the public at 6 p.m. Friday, September 19, at the new Cultural Legacy Gallery, a permanent space dedicated to the impact of Cuban culture on South Florida and throughout the world, housed at the National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College in Downtown Miami. Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in collaboration with Tico Torres features what have become iconic photographs of Cuban figures living outside the island, among them performers, composers, designers, writers and artists. The Cuba Out of Cuba series was shot over the last twenty years in Miami, New York, London, Paris, Florence, Venice and Los Angeles. The exhibition will take a unique and historical approach in surveying the legacies of individuals such as Celia Cruz, Bebo Valdez, Gloria Estefan, Cristina Saralegui, Andy Garcia, Cundo Bermudez, Nilo Cruz, and Paquito d’Rivera, among other Cubans who have influenced the greater culture of their time. Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1968 he and his parents were among Cuban exiles who left the Island aboard the humanitarian air lifts called the Freedom Flights. Once arriving to Miami, his family and many thousands of other Cuban exiles came through the doors of the Freedom Tower that served as a processing and assistance center for the exile community. For many, the tower provided nothing less than their freedom from Castro and the hardships Cuba had come to give them, rightly earning its name of the Freedom Tower. Rodriguez–Duarte’s family settled in Miami’s Little Havana community. At the age of 10, he was given his first camera by his grandfather, which led to his love affair with photography. Today, he is a New York and Miami-based internationally renowned photographer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, and Harper’s Bazaar, among other major publications, and has exhibited his work at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., Museum of the City of New York, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and The Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach among others. Rodriguez-Duarte and his husband of 31 years, Tico Torres, have been documenting the Cuban diaspora since 1993. Torres, a photo stylist who is a master of the mise-en-scene, helped create with Rodriguez-Duarte the joyous image of Celia Cruz standing amid the towering palms of Fairchild Tropical Garden in a traditional ruffled Cuban gown. He was also there to set the mood in the London flat of Guillermo Cabrera Infante, one of Cuba’s most famous authors. Torres and his family were also among Cuban exiles who settled in Miami’s Hialeah community. Rodriguez-Duarte and Torres are thrilled to be returning together, full circle to the historic Freedom Tower for this inaugural exhibit, after separately setting foot there as immigrant children so many years before. The inaugural exhibition kicks off the Museum’s fall season scheduled for Friday, September 19, 2014 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. in conjunction with SIDE BY SIDE: MDCULTURE STANDS AS ONE, a one night event held at the College’s historic Freedom Tower, featuring performances, exhibitions, film screenings, the public unveiling of 2014 Book Fair Poster, and the long awaited Cuban Exile Experience at the Freedom Tower. Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres will remain on display at the museum through August 30, 2015. All exhibitions are free and open to the public. MDC’s Freedom Tower was operated by the U.S. Government as a reception center for Cuban refugees from 1962 to 1974. “The building is significant because it represents the important story of the Cuban exodus to America and resettlement during the Cold War,” reports the U.S. Department of the Interior, which has also called the Freedom Tower the “Ellis Island of the South.” Though it operated in that capacity for only 12 years, the building has become an icon representing the faith that democracy brought to troubled lives, the generosity of the American people and a hopeful beginning that assured thousands a new life in a new land. WHAT: Cuba Out of Cuba: Through the Lens of Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte in Collaboration with Tico Torres WHEN: Friday, September 19 –Opening Reception from 6 – 9 p.m. September 19, 2014 – August 30, 2015 Museum Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. WHERE: MDC Museum of Art + Design Cultural Legacy Gallery The Freedom Tower at MDC, First Floor 600 Biscayne Blvd. About MDC Museum of Art + Design MDC Museum of Art + Design (MOAD) is Miami Dade College’s flagship institution dedicated to the presentation and exhibition of visual art and design, housed at the National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College in Downtown Miami. The mission of the Museum is to promote the appreciation and understanding of art and its role in society through direct engagement with original works of art from within the College’s extensive permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. Furthermore, the Museum presents year-round lectures, symposiums and art related events to expose, educate and engage the greater public through related creative processes. The MDC Museum of Art + Design provides its patrons and visitors access to unique cultural, historical and educational exhibitions that enrich the greater community while building and preserving an expansive permanent art collection. Miami Dade College has been collecting art since the 1960s. Over the years, the collection has grown contain more than 1,600 works in all mediums and genres, specifically within the movements of minimalism, pop art of the ’60s and ’70s, conceptual art and contemporary Latin American art. The College and Museum actively acquire works by emerging and under-recognized artists, as well as major figures in modern, post-modern and contemporary art. About The Cuban Exile Experience & Cultural Legacy Gallery The Cuban Exile Experience & Cultural Legacy Gallery is a historical division of the MDC Museum of Art + Design. In addition to visual arts, the Museum supports exhibitions and programs that collect, preserve, research and interpret stories and artifacts that help build a better community understanding and appreciation of the Freedom Tower’s history. For more information about the exhibition, events or VIP Opening Reception at MDC Museum of Art + Design, please contact the Museum at 305-237-7722 or Event contacts: Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director Tere Estorino Florin, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

José Ignacio Ramírez Lorbes

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José Ignacio's Story

Like many before me, I now find myself writing my own story.

For me it all began, when I noted some of my classmates absent from the Marist school located in the Vibora neighborhood of Havana and or hearing of the impending exit of my cousins to Spain, (my older sister, her husband and niece had already left). Unbeknown to me at the time, my parents had begun to meet (mostly the fathers) to discuss the fact that leaving Cuba was the best thing for the children regardless of the pain and suffering they would experience. It was 1960.

In December of 1960, my younger sister travelled to Miami and accompanied by the older sister met with Father Walsh whom they had heard about from a contact and friend of the family in the British Embassy. The result of that short fifteen minutes gathering by the three of them changed my life forever. Returning to Cuba, my younger sister had the necessary information which led her in early January of 1961 to find her way to an apartment in La Habana Vieja where through a partially open door she was given a set of documents that would enable me to travel.

Within a short few days, swearing me to secrecy for no one should know anything taking place, my papers were put in order and on the seventeenth of January of 1961, my parents and I would sign a legal document which in effect released me from their care. Thanks to the Catholic Charities office in Miami I have a copy of this document.

On Friday the 20th, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn as the thirty-fifth president of the United States while my mother packed the two suitcases I would bring with me. It was much later that I would learn that on that same day they were having their twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. No words can express the feelings on that day.

On Saturday January 21 1961, my mother, younger sister and I went to the airport. My father, I learned much later, was too upset to make the trip. Sitting in the now famous pecera, my younger sister who had been allowed to enter with me pointed out a few children nearby and proceeded to tell me that since I was the oldest of that group I would be responsible until we reached Miami. Upon arrival to Miami we (literally) ran into an awaiting car and were driven to what was referred to at the time as “Kendall Hospital”. As one of the earliest Pedro Panes, I was able to secure a page found in the “parents’ log” with the assistance of the Miami Herald staff which contained the names of my parents. Within a few days I was at the Brickell ave. house and one day Father Walsh asked to speak to us to explain that a refugee camp was being opened outside of Jacksonville FL and so he was looking for volunteers. Places like Matecumbe and others did not exist at that time. That night, I sat by myself and thought very hard concluding that staying in Miami did not seem the right thing to do for me. Children were coming at a fast pace, our classes were very irregular and very basic at best and I did not think I would learn English at a fast enough pace to help myself in the future. The next morning, I met with Father Walsh and volunteered to go to what would be Camp St. John. It was among the many “defining moments” I would be dealing with during those early years.

On February 8th I arrived to the camp along with a few other “volunteers” and stayed in the camp until it closed in the summer of 1962. During that time, the camp grew to a maximum of ninety six children, and we would go to Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville where I ultimately graduated. Tom Aglio our camp administrator made life for us as well as possible and has remained someone that we look up to this day. As the camp closed, we scattered, some went with their families, others to the Orlando area and others like me stayed in Jacksonville where we were placed in foster homes. The first foster home did not go well as we (another Pedro Pan and I) found our bedroom in the attic section of the house without even a fan which made it very difficult during those early weeks in the summer and it was also clear they were not ready or predisposed to care for us. Soon after, the two of us were removed from that house and separated finding ourselves in a transitional foster home. However all did work out at the end as another foster home was found and the two of us were reunited and lived there until graduation.

Attending a Junior College in Central Florida was difficult for me and this was made worse by the lack of funds. The foster parents were getting a divorce and I soon found myself working a full schedule on the third shift at the local hospital while maintaining a full student load. The year did not end well given that schedule and ultimately I decided to leave Florida and go to Nebraska where I stayed with the woman who had been my foster mother and had relocated back to her family’s hometown. It was now the summer of ‘64 and through the fall of that year, I was working full time at a hospital at nights but going nowhere fast. During that summer I was released from the Pedro Pan Program given my age.

Late Fall I received a call from my first cousin, one of which had gone to Spain in 1960 and was living with another cousin who told me his sister (a Pedro Pan in Albuquerque NM) was joining him in Cambridge Massachusetts. He asked me to join them, I agreed. And so in February of 1965, four years after I had left Cuba, I reunited with my cousins and was finally back within the family I had left at fifteen and a half. In 1966, five and a half years after leaving Cuba I would see my parents and extended members of my family, we were finally together again.

I did complete my education, securing a Bachelors and Masters degree in the Boston area where I have lived since I arrive in 1965, got married and have two wonderful sons (now men of course).

Many years later I would return to Cuba and those experiences as well as that of coming to the U.S. in ‘61 made it into a book I recently published and has been the subject of presentations in Massachusetts and Florida about the Pedro Pan story and how life in Cuba really is like under the controls of the communist regime. My presentations have been received positively by audiences and have stirred up interesting questions and comments. The title of my book aptly named is “Defining Moments: A Cuban Exile’s Story about Discovery and the Search for a Better Future”. Writing this book has served as a catharsis of sorts while helping to capture “the story” for future generations in our family, something I felt was important as I noted how much information we were losing as the older generation passed on. However I can say from my personal experience, writing such a book is not a casual endeavor and required (at least of me) revisiting many memories put aside many years ago, but it was well worth it.

I wish to thank Eloisa Echazabal who suggested my doing this story for the Network.

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José Ignacio has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Jan 8th 2014

José Ignacio has updated their profile.

Status update | Jan 8th 2014

José Ignacio, thanks for posting your very interesting story. The story of one of the first Pedro Pans. I am also enjoying reading your book. It truly depicts our story/struggles.

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Jan 7th 2014

José Ignacio has updated their profile.

Status update | Jan 7th 2014

I found you in the spread sheet of our H.S. Class, your name is there without any updates, no address, no e-mail, no phone number etc. Let me know if you would like to have a copy of the spread sheet and I will send it.

Message by Raul A. Hernandez | Jun 9th 2009

Mucho gusto de conectar con otro Pedro Pan de Camp St. John and Bishop Kenny H.S. dime si te graduaste em el 1963. Creo que puedo ver tu cara en mi memoria despues de tantos anos.

Message by Raul A. Hernandez | Jun 9th 2009

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