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:

Emilio Vazquez Rodriguez

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My brother (15) and I (14) first got to Kendall camp, in Miami. We spent there more than 8 months. At first conditions were horrible, but we always wrote nice letter to our folks in Cuba, one or two...

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In Memory of Emilio Cesar Vazquez July 24, 1947 - November 25, 2013 Obituary Emilio Cesar Vazquez, 66, passed away in his home in Apex, NC on November 25th, after a brave battle with bladder cancer. He was with family and surrounded by love. Emilio was born in Havana, Cuba, on July 24, 1947, to Pedro and Emma Vazquez. He was 14 years old when he came to the United States through "Operation Peter Pan", a project that brought Cuban children to the United States sent by their parents to escape communist indoctrination. He and his brother lived at the Catholic Guardian Angel Orphanage in Peoria, Illinois with other Cuban teens until they were reunited with their parents a year later. The family settled in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There, Emilio met the love of his life and fellow Cuban exile, Ada Felipe, in 1968 and married her on July 3rd, 1971. Emilio became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1974 and was very proud to be an American. A self-taught musician, Emilio played the piano and accordion. His family loved to listen to him play the accordion and sing along, especially at Christmas time when they would go caroling in the neighborhood. He also enjoyed chess, travel, mathematics, logic puzzles, and trains of all sizes. Emilio was a funny, vibrant, loving husband, father, grandfather, and brother who lived life to the fullest. Mr. Vazquez received a BS in Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico and a MBA from Inter-American University in Puerto Rico. During his long career as an engineer, he was employed by Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas, Martin Marietta in Orlando, Florida (presently Lockheed Martin), among other companies, and was most recently employed as a software developer with Fidelity Technologies. Mr. Vazquez greatly enjoyed teaching at the college level, having taught at the University of Central Florida in Orlando for over a decade, as well as at local community colleges, including Seminole and Valencia Community Colleges. He retired to North Carolina in January 2013 after having lived in Central Florida for 32 years. Emilio is survived by his wife of 42 years, Ada Felipe Vazquez, of Apex, NC, as well as his three daughters, their spouses, and eight grandchildren: Elisa and Alex Enriquez, of Los Alamos, NM, and their children, Sofia (9) and Andy (7) ; Emilie and Monty Hood, of Cary, NC, and their children, Emma (14), Quinn (12), Cole (10), Keaton (6); and Julie and Mark Dixon, of Apex, NC, and their children Olivia(7) and Mati (4). He is also survived by his older brother, Pedro Vazquez, of Lake Mary, Florida and father-in-law Rogelio Felipe of Miami, Florida. A Celebration of Emilio's Life is planned for Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 at Apex Funeral Home, officiated by Father Sal Busichio of St. Michael's the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary, NC. There will be a reception following the service. Emilio will be laid to rest at Wake Memorial Park in Cary. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to St. Jude's Children's Hospital (

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Dec 3rd 2013

Emilio says: The magazine (publication Vol. 22) of the University of Illinois Alumni Association published article Pedro Pan children reunion - Illinois

Status update | Nov 24th 2011

Emilio, Bienvenido a estas paginas. Acabo de leer que estas en Orlando. Por favor comunicate conmigo en el correo personal. Yo soy amigo de infancia de Leopoldo "Polito" Infante Munoz, es mas anoche hable con el, y todos los cuentos de Peoria me los se. Yo vivo en Orlando desde 67' asi que tenemos que buscar tiempo para conocernos.

Message by Justo Alejandro Martinez Monzon | Dec 12th 2010

Emilio has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Dec 12th 2010

Welcome, Emilio! I've heard many good things said about the Guardian Angel Home in Peoria. If by any chance you have pictures dating back to that period, would you please post them for our edification. I think I might have read in an Illinois newspaper about a relatively recent reunion of some of the Pedro Pan children who were sent to Peoria. By the way, I, too, spent a little over a month in the Kendall Camp in 1962, after spending a month in Camp Matecumbe and before being transferred to the Florida City Camp, where I stayed for several months. ¡Bienvenido y saludos! José Antonio Amaro Reyes.

Message by Marcia Caridad Ramos Gonzalez | Dec 10th 2010

Emilio has updated their profile.

Status update | Dec 10th 2010

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

Status update | Dec 10th 2010

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