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:

Jose Manuel Echandi Ruiz

General Information
Current Name
Jose Manuel Echandi Ruiz
Current Location
Name on Arrival
Jose Manuel Echandi Ruiz
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Sunday, April 2, 1961
Relocated To
Camp Kendall
Stayed With
Foster home: Canton, Ohio

Jose Manuel's Story

I grew up in Ampliacion Almendares in Havana, my home was located at 13 and 68. My brother and I left Cuba in April of 1961 at the ages of 9 and 7 years of age. I remember clearly the "interview" by...

Click here to read the full story

Jose Manuel's News Feed

Leave a public message for Jose Manuel.

Hola hace un ano que no te escribo. Soy Rita casada con un Echandi de los que vinieron de Ciga. Como esta Elena?

Message by Rita Rodriguez- Pardinas | Oct 23rd 2010

Jose Manuel, If I was a betting men, I would tell Jose F Ayo Garcia, que era la "30", la "32" era la que iba por la Quinta Avenida. Yo soy de la 7 entre 44 y 46 y las dos nos servian para nuestra buenas maldades y travesias. Cuidate----JAM

Message by Justo Alejandro Martinez Monzon | Feb 26th 2010

Hello Jose Manuel, Mi Nombre es Jose Ayo, yo tambien vivi en la amplacion; 64 entr 15 y 17, te aquerdas que autobus pasaba por frente de tu casa? Yo estuve en Kedall from Jan. 62 to Sept.62 y tenia 15 anos entonces y esas escapadas que tu mencionastes las hice muchas veces. Saludos a Eloisa

Message by Jose F Ayo Garcia | Feb 26th 2010

Bienvenido a Pedro Pan!!

Message by Maria E Pazos Alvarez | Oct 31st 2009

Hola José Manuel. No, no he regresado a Almendares. Mi corazón está dividido en dos. Una parte quiere regresar a la Patria donde nací, a caminar las calles por donde caminaba todos los días para ir al colegio, a sentarme un rato en el Parque de la Fuente, etc. La otra mitad de mi corazón no me deja regresar, ya que el gobierno y la gente que nos quitó a mi familia y a mí la felicidad, la tranquilidad, y la estabilidad conque vivíamos todavía está allí. Como tu dices, es confortante saber que una sola no ha pasado por esto. Este network del Herald nos está ayudando a compartir nuestras experiencias, y eso es confortante. Let's keep our memories alive! Cariños, Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Sep 19th 2009

Hola, mi nombre es Rita. Me estuvo curioso tu apellido. Es el primer Echandi cubano que veo. Una vez recibi un email curioso de una Echandi que estaba en Rusia..Elena Echandi. Yo soy Echandi de casada. MI esposo es Echandi de Puerto Rico y los abuelos de Ciga, Navarra, Espana. De donde son los Echandi de tu sepa? No he puesto mi historia aun, pero yo fui para Freeport, Illinois en el 1961. Yo tenia 8 anos.

Message by Rita Rodriguez- Pardinas | Sep 14th 2009

José Manuel, I also stayed at Kendall, but what I wanted to tell you is that we were neighbors in Ampliación de Almendares. I lived in Avenida 11 entre 68 y 70. Welcome to the network! Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Sep 3rd 2009

Welcome, Jose Manuel to our website. As you read through the stories, you will find many of Camp Kendall. You have just joined the site of a bunch of old kids reliving our childhood. We not only make contact with other PPs but we also joke around a lot. Hope you enjoy it!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 3rd 2009

Leave a message for Jose Manuel

Your message
Your name
Your e-mail