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,

Casandra Montero Santana

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Casandra's Story

Without a doubt it is our parents who deserve a lot of credit for their courageous and unselfish decision to let us part in an effort to allow us the opportunity of a more promising future, and for that I will forever be grateful to them. It was not until after I became a mother and my children were 10 years old (my age when I left Cuba), that I realized how difficult the decision must have been for our parents to let us leave the country alone, not knowing if they would ever see us again. In all honesty, I do not know if I would have had the courage to do the same with my own children in a similar scenario, and I am grateful to God that I was never faced with such a predicament.

My father who had been a "primer teniente" under Batista's regime was in jail awaiting a hearing in January 1961 to determine if he would face "el paredon". It was then that my mother opted to take me (age 10)and my two brothers ages 12 and 15 out of the country. We flew to Miami via Kingston on January 18, 1961.

My mother was 5 months pregnant at the time, with a husband in jail who stood a big chance of getting executed, yet she separated from her three kids not knowing if she would ever see us again. She was less than 5 feet tall and approximately 100 pounds but she had the courage and determination of a giant! There is no doubt in my mind that God is now looking after her in heaven.

After a short stay with a friend of the family (Ruben Alvarez who graciously took us in while we were in Miami)my brothers and I were relocated to an orphanage in New York "The John F. Kennedy Home", and needless to say we struggled. There was no one there who spoke a word of Spanish, and the separation was brutal because I was sent to the girl's home and my brothers were separated as well, due to their age difference.

We were very fortunate that a few months after we arrived in New York our father was released from jail in Cuba and he immediately flew to New York. He went to live with an elderly aunt and uncle to try to find a job and await Mom's arrival (with our little brother who was born in Cuba in May), while we stayed in the orphanage.

While at the orphanage, a girl by the name of Diana (do not recall her last name but I would love to connect with her) arrived from Cuba and soon we became very close. It was a blessing to have someone to communicate with. Diana also had two brothers who were approximately the same age as my brothers so they also got company. I recall that my Dad would pick us up (all six of us) every Saturday and Sunday during the day and the evening return to the orphanage was anything but pleasant. To say the least it was a "tearful event" and an experience that I will never forget. I can imagine how hard it must have been for Dad!

My Mom arrived from Cuba approximately 7 months later with my baby brother. My Dad had just found a very low paying job, and he soon took us out of the orphanage and rented an apartment in Harlem (East 125 St) to reunite the family. That was also an unforgettable experience.

A few months later after my father gathered enough money, we moved to New Jersey where we later lived for 13 years. I got married in New Jersey and started my own family. My son Omar was born in October 1971 and the cold weather did not agree with him and he was often sick, so in March of 1973 we moved to sunny Miami. Our daughter Kristina was born in October 1979 and we have been very fortunate that the hard times are behind us.

Our children are now grown and have their own lives here in Miami (no grandchildren yet - I am still waiting) and my husband Omar and I live in Surfside, Florida.

My parents lived a full life. My mom died

April of 2008 and Dad died 9 months later, but we were able to share many happy moments and for that I am grateful.

I am happy to report that this story had a happy ending, and we thank God daily for our many blessings!

Monsignor Walsh, Penny Powell, and all who contributed to make this operation possible for us, deserve our gratitude! Pedro Pan could have never happened without them. I thank them for their love and dedication to all of us whose lives they have touched.

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Estimada Casandra: According to the Adoption Agencies, Orphanages and Maternity Homes: An Historical Directory - Volumes 1 & 2, there has never been a John F. Kennedy Home in NY. There is however Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Home for Children at 1770 Stillwell Avenue, Bronx, NY, 10469. The home was operated by the Missionary Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. It operated from 1950 to 1979. The site is now owned and used by United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, Inc. There is by the way a Kids of Kennedy Alumni Yahoo Group that might be useful to you in locating your friend Diana and her brothers:

Message by Jose Antonio Amaro Reyes | Mar 17th 2013

Linda foto, Casandra! ¿Tienes alguna foto de nuestros días en Eastern Airlines? Yo no encuentro ninguna.

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Mar 12th 2013

Casandra has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Mar 11th 2013

Casandra says: I have always wanted to find my friend Diana who was approximately 12 years old. She had two older brothers. Can someone help to find her?

Status update | Mar 11th 2013

Concho!! What's the matter en el timbeque??? How come everyone has been off from this wonderful page?? Oh bueno probablemente it has been me only..pero alla here to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, unas Noche Buena buenisima y un Prospero Anyo nuevo, que Dios y mi Caridad del Cobre les culme con mucha salud, paz, amor, y dinero y si se ganan la lotto DO NOT FORGET ME !! HERE I AM !! Besos Ileana/Minico

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Dec 24th 2009

Corazon...pasarla bien? ninya si esta casa aca me recuerda de tiempos de Fidel Castro y su dictaduria.. wowwww estos son peores que Fidel, Vaya Fidel se quedo ninyo de TETA comparado con estos Y MAS NUNCA voy de vacaciones a casa de nadie pero por creerle a la gente y no hacer caso al viejo refran que "TODO LO QUE BRILLA NO ES ORO" la tonta y estupida (SI YO MISMA ME LLAMO ASI) fui yo...te contare para ver si adelanto el vuelo diciendo que me siento mal...adelantare el ir al strip y al viaje al Grand Canyo..besos...

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Sep 6th 2009

Casandrita donde estas amor???? Escribe aca conchale...besitos a ti, Omar e hijos....

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Sep 5th 2009

shu...I tried to put an album of the ex-difunto and me at Red lobster but of course I couldn't, but if you want to see it go to and you will find it's cute.. love you from Las Vegas to you all.. VIVA LAS VEGAS !!!

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Sep 2nd 2009

Casandrita me hermana he creado un network para los Pedro Pan, pero en este uno puede hacer lo que quiera de su pagina y adornarla como quiera. dejaselo saber a todos que conoces y solo tienen que registrarse en y ahi me encontraran. Es buenisima y bonita pueden poner videos de cada uno o del youtube todo es para mejorar las cosas. Te veo ileana/minico

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Jul 22nd 2009

Que gusto recibir tu mensaje, Casandra! Me acuerdo de tí y del resto de nuestro grupito de Eastern passenger services at the Miami airport. Que dias aquellos! Muchos cariños, Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Jul 19th 2009

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