Cuban immigrants share precious family heirlooms to show history of Cuban exiles by Janey Fugate jfugate@elnuevoherald.com 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. http://www.miamiherald.com Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/26/v-print/4257131/cuban-immigrants-share-precious.html#storylink=cpy

Herminio Cuervo Delgado

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Herminio's Story

My mother took me to Jose Marti Airport at 07:00 on Sunday, 20 Aug 1961. We waited all day to get on the PAA flight to Miami ($25.00 one way). Finally the DC7B took off, flew over the Green Spot soft drink factory after crossing Ave. Rancho Boyeros, I saw the Feria Ganadera go by, then some chicken farm (I was on a window seat on the R, in front of the wing). The last things I saw of Cuba was the distillery of Ron Sta. Cruz (name on white chimney), the town, then it all faded away. I had no clue what it would be like to live in the USA. We landed in Miami, everybody was clapping. The airport was much smaller. We walked to the terminal and there were people there to welcome some. After most of the travellers had departed, I got in touch with a skinny cura with a barbita, named Padre Pala. He offered to help me. I went with him and his group and we all went in to a new Ford, light green minivan. We drove for awhile and got to this place they called Kendall. I had nothing to eat all day, so I was hungry. They offered us ham and cheese sandwiches (I ate 4) and drank one quart of Foremost milk. I had no clothes to change, because my bag "missed" the flight. They loaned me some and I slept on a catre. Next day, they took the boys to another location, which was in the middle of a pine forest,called Camp Matecumbe. They got me swimming trunks. It had a great swimming pool. I met one of my dad's cousins who was a coach there (Arturo Sordo, cuban champion in backstroke). The food was geat. I ate tons of Wheaties for breakfast. In one month I gained 20 lbs. My nickname was "Marino". It was lonely for many of us, but we all hung together and made the best of it. Then one day, they called me and told me I was going to Jacksonville FL. It looked really far up on the map, but at least it was not in some real scary places like Omaha, Nebraska. My brother, who came first ended up in a orphanage in Norfolk, VA.

I flew National Airlines to Jacksonville. We walked to the terminal and I had a tag on my shirt explaining who I was and where I was going. The stewardesses were very nice. In the airport I met a really nice Irish guy named Patrick, who took me in a Chevrolet dark green pick-up truck to the camp: St. John. It was in a citrus grove (grapefruits, oranges, many trees filled with squirrels, Spanish moss, right on the St John River, which was huge: bigger than anything I had seen in Cuba.

The water in the campamento stunk to high hell, because it was full of sulfur. We had these huge "sinks", which were round and had a round metal pedal type device, so you could press on it and step on the pedal and get sulfur water to wash your face, brush your teeh and then stink like rotten eggs.

The duchas were the same water. We slept in bunk beds. I slept on the bottom and on top there was a kid named Cancio, nicknamed Boca de Trucha. Other interesting characers were El Negro, Bilongo, El Coqueto (EPD), El Bruja, C... de Goma and El Enano. A kid named Esteban Capote knew how to play soccer. There were some Cuban teachers there: Bravo (who taught math), del Pino (taught English). We had an American coach, who had a really neat Ford with a retractable hard roof.

We wore uniforms to Bishop Kenney HS: black pants, white socks and shirts, black ties. Laundry was done commercial, so we had to put our names on everything. When it got cold they took me to J.C. Penney and got me a blue jacket. I still have it, with a fake fleece interior, it still is a great jacket.

In the mornings they would ring a large bell and wake everybody up to go to school. It made a hell of a rattle.

We would pile into a surplus USAF flight line bus with signs not to smoke in 4 languages (NATO surplus) and we would ride for 45 minutes to the school. At the end of the day, they would drive us back. Wash up, get ready for supper, study hall (in the dining room) and then bed. I became a kitchen helper to a large Negra named Violet, who taught me how to make Southern rolls in the oven and hot chocolate: mix 4 gallons of leche (glass one gallon containers in metal caddies or 4 jugs, with a # 10 can of Hershey chocolate sirope. It was great.

We got a Spanish cura (cant remember name) who used to call us "chavales" and taught Latin and he had very bad milk ("mala leche"), so we played all sorts of annoying tricks on, so we could hear him curse in gallego.

We celebrated our first Thanksgiving there and believe it or not, we got our first cerveza in the US: Busch Bavaria. Each one of us had one can with supper. I thought it was cool.

It started to get very cold (I thought) and then my mother and sister were able to get out of Cuba and they started looking for me. I had never been able to communicate with any of them: no telephone call, no letters, no nothing.

One day, they came and told me I could leave and go to Miami. I packed my things and Patrick took me to the Greyhound It was an interesting ride with many stops along the way. Then Miami and my mother and a cousin were there to receive me.

I will never forget all the poeple who helped me when I needed it the most.

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Herminio, My name is Arturo Sordo and I am the grandson of the uncle you mention in your blog. I'm not sure if you have any other memories of my Abuelo, but if so, I would love to hear them. Thanks. Arturo Sordo

Message by Arturo Sordo | Mar 28th 2013

Herminio, I just finished reading your story. I cannot imagine how difficult those times were for you.

Message by Donna (Manresa) R.N. Losego | May 15th 2010

Marino: Me acuerdo de ti. Yo estuve en Matecumbe del 29 de Agosto hasta el 4 de Marzo del 62, sin contar un mes y medio en Kendall a finales de año. Yo tengo un website para pedropanes en www.campmatecumbeveterans.com y estoy catalogando poco a poco a todos los PPs que hay. [Asómate cuando tengas un chance] ?Me puedes dar los nombres de los 7 u 8 que mencionastes el nombrete de tus compañeros de St. John? Un millón de gracias. You penned a good story, brother! Manny

Message by Manuel Gutierrez Fernandez de Castro | Dec 31st 2009

Herminio, I love the details you remember. Like Carmen, I also felt like I was taking the trip with you. I can also smell the sulphorous water. I lived in St. Augustine for a while where the water has that peculiar smell. I am amazed that you had no contact with your family in Cuba. That must have been terrible. So glad you got together again fairly soon.

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Jun 27th 2009

You have a good memory! I don't remember anything of my trip to the airport, but reading you story was like going on that car too. I am glad your family found you and you were reunited with them

Message by Carmen Romanach | Jun 25th 2009

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