Maria Elena Josefina Juarez Padron
Maria Elena Josefina's Story
I was born in Havana and attended El Verbo Encarnado until 2nd grade then transferred to the American Dominican Academy. I lived with my mother and grandmother in El Vedado. Among my friends were Maggie and Alina Alayon, Nelson Fonseca, Elenita Menendez, Millie Garcia, Alicia Darias, Margarita, Lalita, Olga, Esther, Mercy, Juan, Lazaro and so many others. I came by myself on February 2, 1961, when I was 12, and was sent to Kendall. After a month, I was placed in a foster home (Yoder family) in Albuquerque, NM. A boy named Manolito was on the flight with me and went to live with another family in NM. In Albuquerque, I went to Catholic school with all American kids as I recall, but I met other Pedro Pan kids in the neighborhood. Across the street from me were brother and sister Piri and Natasha, who lived with the Wagners. Piri tried to teach me how to burp, something I still have not been able to master! I also remember a girl named Teresita, and a very young boy named Juan. After seven months my mother arrived in Miami and sent for me. We lived in Coral Gables for a year and I went to 8th grade at Shenandoah Junior High School (now a middle school). We then moved up north to Jersey City, NJ in 1962. I graduated from William L. Dickinson High School, then moved to New York City where I went to school, and to work, mostly in publishing. I moved to NC in 1996. Though we were treated well, I think I was in shock the entire month I lived at Kendall. I remember the woods behind the main house, and many snakes. The months in foster care were very unhappy ones for me, though I know others had wonderful experiences. I enjoyed all my years in the New York/New Jersey area, but it never felt a right fit for me. I was 44 years old (am now 60) before the dam of my memories burst and I began to attempt to reconnect with my past and my heritage. That in part led to my move to the Asheville area of North Carolina where I now live. It feels like home, and two years ago, my partner and I built a lovely house in these beautiful mountains. I would love to connect with other Pedro Pans that I knew in Cuba, that remember me from Kendall, or whom I met in Albuquerque. My family is gone. Please, if I am someone you knew or think you knew, let me hear from you. Thanks so much to everyone who is making this opportunity possible.