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:

Rita Rodriguez Pardinas

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Rita's Story

En agosto de 1961, con 8 años de edad,salí en el último ferry que partió de La Habana con visa de turista. Desde mayo 1961, mi hermano, Hector, estaba en Matacumbé esperando nuestra llegada, pero llegué sóla. A mis padres no les permitieron salir de Cuba en ese momento, y decidieron enviarme con 10 centavos y un billete de $50.00 detrás del espejo del neceser. mami le escribió el teléfono del campamento a la tapa del neceser )comenzó mi vida como Pedro Pan. Llamé a las monjas y me quedé sentada en un banquito en West Palm Beach hasta que me recogieron. Pude ver a mi hermano dos días después de mi llegada. Yo me quedé en Kendall y en una semana partimos para Freeport, Ill con otros 15 Pedro Pan. Actualmente estoy casada con Rafael Echandi, tenemos dos hijas, Rita Larissa y Alexandra Maria y soy propietaria de un comercio aquí en San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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Rita has updated their profile.

Status update | Aug 13th 2012

¡Hola Rita! Que cute tu foto. Ahora me gustaría leer algo de tu historia de Pedro Pan, aunque sea cortica.

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Jul 14th 2012

Rita has updated their profile.

Status update | May 9th 2012

Rita: Gracias por escribirme. Leyendo tu nota tan cariñosa sobre mi tia, me ha traido muchos recuerdos y sintiendo que ella no pueda apreciar ahora de los que la recuerdan. Ella es una de las maestras mas dedicadas que he conocido (bueno y a veces hasta el punto de sacarlo a uno del quicio). Ella tenia un gran amor a la enseñansa y a los niños. En adicion tenia sus melodramas. La primera vez que fui a PR yo tenia 15 años y me pase las vacaciones de verano con ella. Al regresarme a Miami, a los 2 dias tenia una carta de ella diciendome.."Susanita, cuando regrese del aeropuerto, limpie el piso con las lagrimas porque te estraño mucho". ja ja ja! Yo ahora la estraño mucho. Ella esta viviendo en una casa en Caguas donde la señora se dedica a cuidar personas con Alzheimers. Mis primos la visitan a menudo pero rara vez sabe quien son. Gracias de nuevo por recordarte de ella. Un abrazo.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Nov 8th 2010

Rita, Why don't you post your experience of when you left Cuba on the site? Would love to read it. Was anyone else from our class a PP child? Joe

Message by Joseph L Oroza Ruilopez | May 6th 2010

Hola Rita,cuando nos vas a contar tu historia?? Nos vemos pronto....un abrazo de Carmencita

Message by Carmencita Romanach | Feb 14th 2010

I don't want this to turn into a big deal. What puzzled me is that people knew where I went to elementary school and that information is no where else but on the PP site. Where did you post my email address or who did you send it to? Is there a list of the members of our class? It is very bizarre because on the PP site the privacy clause states that only registered members have access to the bio information on the PP site. Please let me know. Thanks

Message by Joseph L Oroza Ruilopez | Feb 12th 2010

Yes I thought it was kind of odd that I was receiving the messages with the alert from the Pedro Pan site. If the email address was posted on Facebook? or on the ASC site, it shouldn't go through the PP site. All the messages that I have received have made reference to my bio on the PP site. I have nothing to hide, but would like to keep my PP story among us PP children. Where did you post my email address?

Message by Joseph L Oroza Ruilopez | Feb 12th 2010

Rita has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Feb 12th 2010

Hi Rita, I've been getting messages from other class members and it's been great. They show up through the Pedro Pan website. Can people from outside the PP network reach you through the PP webpage? Joe

Message by Joseph L Oroza Ruilopez | Feb 12th 2010

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