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:

Alicia Cruz Rivero

General Information
Current Name
Alicia Reilly
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Alicia Cruz Rivero
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Thursday, November 16, 1961
Relocated To
Kendall (for just one night) Florida City

Alicia's Story

I believe I am one of the oldest, if not the oldest, member of the Peter Pan Group. I remember George asking me at the airport if I had anybody in Miami who could take care of me. I had turned 18 ...

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Alicia's News Feed

Leave a public message for Alicia.

Fred Beato , making a video Cuba b.c and co wrote the song Cuba b.c with David Pack formerly from the famous band Ambrosia, we need to talk?

Message by Fred beato | Dec 7th 2013

Great story, I also was sent to Helena, Mt. Arrived in April '62 and never been back to Cuba, but soon we shall. Hope you see this before the upcoming reunion in June '13

Message by Nick Perez-Caurel | Mar 19th 2013

Hello Alicia, This is Emilio Valle. I was in Helena with you and attended with you Cathedral High. I was a freshman and you were a senior. Please email me back, We are having a 50 year reunion with all the brothers and sisters from Montana.

Message by emilio valle | Mar 17th 2013

Alicia: Por casualidad tu ibas a las Dominicas en "la famosa guagua 8? Con Virtudes de "policía" y Martín Pimienta de chofer? Yo soy Maria Julia Caravia de Fusselman y creo q estaba en un grado mas que tu ( si eres la misma Alicita Cruz). Estamos tratando de reunir a todas las compañeras de mas o menos los mismos grados. Me puedes encontrar en Facebook bajo mi apellido de casada, Fusselman Cariños , Maria Julia

Message by Maria Julia Caravia de Fusselman | Jun 7th 2012

Alicia: Estuvimos cerca y no nos encontramos. Te vi en uno de los reportajes que salieron en la televisión y casi me da una sirumba, porque yo andaba por ahí cerca. No puedo creer que no coincidimos. Let's keep in touch by e-mail and hope that soon we'll meet in person. A big hug, Yoli

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Nov 22nd 2010

Alicia escribeme ,recibi la carta muy bonita de tu hija y me alegro mucho.Buscame en Facebook.

Message by MartaB.Hernandez | May 8th 2010

Alicia: I am glad to read hat you will not return to Kuba until it's free. You would not believe how many of us Pedro Pan kids still do NOT understand what is really going on and visit the destroyed fatherland to leave dollars for the Kastros to stay in power, or send dollars to their families without realizing that this mistake is one of the dictatorial Government's sole sources of income. The money that it takes to feed your family for a month keeps the brothers Kastro in power for one hour. Cariños, Manny

Message by Manuel A. Gutiérrez Fernández | Aug 29th 2009

Alicia, te doy la bienvenida tambien. Igual que Otmara, fui de las que ella llama 'las viejitas' de Florida City y pienso, ¡si pudiera ser otra vez tan viejita como entonces! --Como tú, enseñé español durante muchos años, y tambien mis estudiantes tuvieron que oir mis cuentos de Cuba y de mi salida. Empezando cada curso les contaba como al salir me quitaron casi todo lo que poseía en Cuba, pero no me pudieron quitar la educación y la preparación que había recibido de mi familia y de mi colegio. Recuerdo un incidente con una chica arrogante que tuve en una clase, una chica a quien obviamente no le habían enseñado a respetar a todas las personas aunque fueran diferentes a ella. Esto fue en una clase de inglés, y ella me echó en cara de que yo ni siquiera era nativa de los EEUU. Le contesté, "Well, my dear child, I have been a US citizen longer than you've been alive, and my citizenship was not just a privilege I received at birth, but a choice made by me in full awareness. I wonder who appreciates more what that citizenship means, you or I?" Cuál fue mi sorpresa y mi satisfacción cuando los otros estudiantes ¡me aplaudieron! Nunca tuve mas problemas con ella. Nada enseña mejor que el ejemplo y el testimonio de la experiencia propia. ¿No es cierto, colega? -- Otra pregunta: ¿vivías en el Vedado?- En este grupo nos encantan los cuentos. Espero seguir oyendo los tuyos. Una abrazo, Yolanda

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Aug 24th 2009

08/24/09 Querida Alicia: Bienvenida!!!!!Yo soy de las "viejitas" de Florida City...llegué con 17 en Septiembre 5,1962, solamente en Florida City hasta los 18.....puedo recordar vividamente cuando en el Aeropuerto de Rancho Boyeros el miliciano que me estaba chequeando mis cosas vió un abrigo que mami me mandó a hacer para el viaje y me imagino que le gustó enseguida dijo "està decomisado" pero también recuerdo lo que mis padres me habían dicho "no abras la boca ni contestes NADA" ....son recuerdos que nunca olvidaremos como tantas cosas en nuestras vidas...pero con el favor de Dios ahora nos estamos reuniendo después de tantos años, Un fuerte abrazo, Otmara

Message by Otmara Capote | Aug 24th 2009

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