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:

María Luisa Dominguez Pereira

María Luisa's Story

A continuación les voy a relatar algunos recuerdos de mi niñez en Cuba. El relato se centra en mi hermano, Benjamin,y su experiencia terrorifica con el gobierno revolucionario. Por desgracia mi herm...

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Hello Maria Luisa, I received your message, I would like to see if you can send me the pictures that you have of us at the orphanage. I also saw that you left my brother a message. My brother passed away,he was my only sibling. I went to Miami for Christmas, my mother lives there. She will be 90 years old in March. I have three sons and my brother had none, he was a teacher in Miami. hope to hear from you.Love...

Message by Ana G Marquez | Jan 16th 2013

Maria Luisa casi no me acuerdo de nada de Queen of Heaven, yo tenia ocho anos, todavia vivo en Denver. yo tengo una amiga que se llama Martica Castillo tambien estaba en queen of Heaven. tampoco se escribir muy bien en espanol. pero me dio mucho gusto tu mensaje.

Message by Ana G. Simanca | Nov 28th 2012

María Luisa has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Nov 3rd 2012

María Luisa has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Mar 23rd 2012

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Status update | Mar 22nd 2012

Maria Luisa, Yo estuve contigo en Queen of Heaven. Vi tu foto e inmediatamente te reconoci. No recordaba la historia tan triste sobre tu hermano. Pense en ti cuando nuestro grupo se reunio en Denver.

Message by Josefina Campaneria | Jan 29th 2012

Gracias por compartir tu historia . Tuve el privilegio de conocerte y puedo decir que eres una gran persona . Recibe un fuerte abrazo de tu hermano Pedro Pan de A Coruña.

Message by Luis Rivas | Aug 22nd 2011

Maria Luisa: Estube leyendo tu historia. Me gustaria intercambiar emails contigo. Al leer mi mensaje y aceptarme como contacto, podras ver mi email. Por favor, escribeme.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Aug 22nd 2011

Hola Maria Luisa - yo estuve en Queen of Heaven de Deciembre de 1962 hasta el verano de 1964 pero tengo mi mente muy borrosa de todo ese tiempo aunque lo recuerdo con cariño pues gracias a Dios que estabamos juntas y fue un tiempo muy especial de mi niñez. Yo vivo en Miami y veo que tu estas en la madre patria. Siempre me acuerdo de Denver cuando me pongo a bordar y de las cosas que nos regalaban cuando terminabamos un proyecto.

Message by Olga H Abilleira Del Alcazar | Dec 12th 2010

Ma. Luisa, recibi tus mensajes y me alegraron muchisimo, por razones de salud, me demore la respuesta, pero quisiera que charlemos via email si te es posible. Carinos a ti y tu familia, Argentina

Message by Argentina M Hermida Blanco | Oct 3rd 2010

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