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:

Liliana Suarez Couto

General Information
Current Name
Liliana Suarez Couto
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Liliana Suarez Couto
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Saturday, October 7, 1961
Relocated To
2455 W Flagler, Miami
Stayed With
Josephine Couto

Liliana's Story

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

Liliana's News Feed

Leave a public message for Liliana.

My apologies Spanish is a bit rusty...I misread, and see you are Cesar's sister. At first I thought his wife. In 1986 Cesar was teaching Master Classes at Julliard and seeking to buy a home in NJ. He and his family, children included, stayed with my parents, Dick & Diane Frank in NJ. He left a huge impact on our hearts. I am a pianist and had the privilege of accompanying him when he sang at our church. He was a special man...and I would like to know more about what happened to him all these years. We lost touch after they moved back to Florida. With profound sadness, Justine Frank

Message by Justine Frank | Jul 19th 2013

This is Justine Frank, from Northbranch Ward, NJ. I am so terribly sorry to hear of this news, the best I could make it out in Spanish. I was just doing a Google search trying to locate you guys after so many years. You touched our hearts so deeply. I was just sharing with a friend about how Cesar had sung with Beverly Sills. My thoughts and prayers to your family. My Mom & Dad are still alive. Jon is 29 but has been terribly ill for past 11 years, cancer and other issues. I hope you will find this message. I will share this news with my parents. Much love and affection...I think we still have the cabbage patch doll Cesar made for Jon when you stayed with us. Such tender memories. I have fond memories of our Christmas bean soup, etc. My parents home burned down Christmas Eve 2011. Things have never been well for them since the deaths of the children. Again...deep regrets over your loss and for the children. All my best...Justine

Message by Justine Frank | Jul 19th 2013

Hi Liliana,soy Paquito Echeverria estaba buscnado por un amigo y me tropece con tu nombre no sabia que habia venidos con el programa de PP. Saludos

Message by Frank ( Paco ) Echeverria | Jun 11th 2009

Yo soy la hermana de Cesar A. Suarez Couto, quien entro a los EEUU a la edad de 11 anos en Oct. 7, 1961 junto conmigo, Liliana Suarez Couto. Mi hermano fallecio el 17 de Mayo de 1998, a la edad de 46 anos, de un ataque al corazon masivo. Era cantante de opera, tenor, quien fue apoyado e impulsado al el mundo artistico por la gloriosa Marta Perez. Se gano 3 veces el premio Verdi en la Escala de Milan, Italia. Canto y grabo con Beverly Sills, Jeannette Peters y Luciano Pavarotti. Estaba casado, con tres hijas y un nieto, cuando fallecio. - SENT BY Lilliana Suarez Couto

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | Jun 3rd 2009

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