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:

Ana Gema Lopo Sebasco

General Information
Current Name
Ana Gema Lopo Sebasco
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Ana Gema Lopo Sebasco
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Thursday, March 23, 1961
Relocated To
Denver, CO
Stayed With
Queen of Heaven Orphanage, Denver, Colorado

Ana Gema's Story

This person has not yet filled out their story about their flight as a part of Operation Pedro Pan.

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Leave a public message for Ana Gema.

ana gema es margarita de la fuente perdi contacto contigo desde brooklyn ponte en contacto commigo m

Message by margarita de la fuente romero | Jan 12th 2012

!Ya era hora, niña!

Message by Manuel A. Gutiérrez | Jan 4th 2012

Ana Gema, Soy Maria Elvira (Misha) Lasaga. Estudiamos juntas en Lourdes. Tal vez te acuerdes de mí. Misha

Message by Maria Elvira Lasaga Guerra | Jun 28th 2010

Ana Gema: Soy Conchita Gutierrez. Viajamos juntas a Denver. No he sabido de las chicas del Denver desde que me fuí. Veo que Tessie Morales te escribió. Le escribiré a ella y al resto de las muchachas. Espero estes bien al igual que Lourdes.

Message by Conchita Gutierrez Cuesta | Jun 20th 2010

AnaGema, so se si te acuerdas de mi, Ivonne o mi hermana Annabella. //Tu fuiste conmigo a Skinnner Jr. High?

Message by Ivonne garay Blank | Mar 13th 2010

Bienvenida, Ana Gema. ¡Qué nombre tan bonito te pusieron! My friend and tocaya Yolanda Lopez (aka Adrianne) told me that you two were classmates as little girls in Cuba. How cool that is! I look forward to reading your story in your profile. At this website we become friends as easily as we did when we were kids, because in our hearts, each and all of us still hold on to the childhood that was shattered by the criminals who made a disaster of Cuba -but they couldn't take away our love for our beautiful native island. Your Pedro Pan sister, Yoli Cardenas

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Jan 7th 2010

Ana Gema I am so glad you joined the site! Welcome! It felt good to hear from you the other day after so many years, Please keep in touch. Un abrazo Yolie

Message by Adrianne Miller | Jan 5th 2010

ana gema es esther morales - yo hablo con chari firmat y alicita mestre a cada ratol

Message by esther morales | Jan 5th 2010

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