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:

Kenia Maria Casarreal

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Current Name
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Current Location
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Name on Arrival
Kenia Maria Casarreal
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Wednesday, January 11, 1961
Relocated To
Relocated to St. Vincent's Orphanage, Vincennes, Indiana

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Dr. Kenia Maria Casarreal Brilliant of mind, generous of spirit and much loved wife and mother, Dr. Kenia Casarreal passed away very peacefully on April 20, 2010 in Palm Beach, Flori da after struggling with various illnesses for 10 years. Kenia's happiest moments came from her family and from contributing as much time, effort, care and resources to helping others, to art and to any endeavor that she thought would make the world a better place. Born in Manzanillo, Cuba on January 3, 1946, she immigrated to the United States at 14 years old with her sister, Ady as part of the "Pedro Pan" program, or the Cuban Children's Program, in 1960. The program was the first plan where the U.S. Gove rnment and the Catholic Church worked together to emigrate some 14,000 children from revolutionary Cuba. Her parents, Diego Ramon and Amelia, and her brother Diego, immigrated to the U.S. a year and half later. After spending a short time in a refugee camp, Kenia resided at St. Vincent's School in Vincennes, Indiana before attending college at Marian College in Indianapolis, Indiana. At only 19 years old, five years after leaving Cuba, she earned a B.A., summa cum laude from Marian. At Marian, Kenia met and married Leo Clouser on New Year's Eve, 1966, and had twins Leo and Kimberly in 1967. Kenia earned her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Organizational Psychology from Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California. She also holds Master of Arts degrees in Education (Special Education), Psychology and Education Psychology from California State University in Los Angeles, California. Kenia divorced in 1976, and met Jake Adajian in 1984, and had been a beloved and loving wife to Jake for 26 years. Kenia derived many moments of joy from her family. Driven by her need to contribute, Kenia had extensive national experience in a wide variety of non-profit and grassroots organizations such as Watts Community Center; Project Head Start as Parent Coordinator; Sophia Salvin Special Education Early Childhood Unit Model Project; and El Centro Mental Health Center. In addition, throughout her career, she performed on a pro bono basis for innumerable consultations for grassroots AIDS, women's, minorities' and children's organizat ions. Kenia was named Arts Patron of the Year in 2005. She was a founding member of the Legacy Society of the Long Beach Museum of Art, past trustee of the LBA Collector's Circle and she and Jake had been longtime supporters of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center. She was a board member subscriber and patron of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra as well. Kenia was a supporter of the Museum of Latin American Art and a board member of the Long Beach Library Foundation. Her legacy is to CSULB's College of the Arts to the "Dr. Kenia Casarreal-Adajian and Judge Jacob Adajian Scholarship Fund" for the promotion of voice, opera and College of the Arts. She is survived by her mother, sister, brother, children and her wonderful husband. We will gather on May 2, at 2:00pm at First Church, (241 Cedar Ave., Long Beach, CA 90802) to remember, celebrate and rejoice in Kenia's amazing life and accomplishments. And to further commemorate Kenia's spirit, wearing a color other than black is definitely encouraged. In lieu of fl owers, donations in memory of Dr. Kenia Casarreal may be made to a charity of your choice, preferably one that supports the homeless or abused women. Published in the Long Beach Press-Telegram from April 28 to April 30, 2010

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Dec 20th 2011

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