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 Santa Ana Garavito

3 people loved this story

Ana's Story

I experienced three air raids or attacks, I really don't know how to describe them in terms of historical background, but I can describe them in terms of my feelings. You tend to forget facts, but you don't forget feelings...fear. One of the times I was in school, Colegio Eucaristico, and there were bombs going off. I was in class and the nun told us all to get on the floor and move towards the front of the class. Then she had us kneel before a portrait of Christ and pray. I remember thinking that we were going to have to do something more than pray because the sound of the bombs seemed to be gaining momentum and the building shook. Both the shaking and the sounds subsided, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Our prayers were answered.

The second time, I was skating on my neighborhood street - Reparto Nautico - and a plane flying overhead started shooting and dropping pamphlets of some kind. I froze in the middle of the street while my friends ran into their houses. My friend's dad, a top ranking "miliciano" picked me up and took me into his home. The third even occurred in the middle of the night, I was sleeping and my grandmother pulled me out of bed and onto the floor. I literally saw what I know to be trailer bullets going by the windows. Then, my grandmother and mother stuck me in the bathtub along with a blanket and pillow. I understand now that I was experiencing the Bay of Pigs invasion possibly. I just read an article on Tequesta written by Rita Cauce on "Fifty Years Later" and a lot of my past was explained to me, and I understood what was going on then, that I could not figure out how my life was turned upside down.

Ana's News Feed

Leave a public message for Ana.

Ana has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Apr 25th 2013

Ana says: I would also like to know of anyone who lived in el Reparto Nautico during 1959 - 1961

Status update | Apr 25th 2013

Ana says: I would love to know of anyone who attended el Colegio Eucaristico, Vedado, during the years of 1960-1961 to exchange experiences and memories.

Status update | Apr 25th 2013

Ana has updated their profile.

Status update | Apr 25th 2013

Ana has updated their profile.

Status update | Feb 13th 2010

Ana has joined the Pedro Pan Network. Please welcome them!

Status update | Feb 11th 2010

Leave a message for Ana

Your message
Your name
Your e-mail