María Elena Domínguez Marín
María Elena's Story
My name is Maria Elana Dominguez Marin. I am from Guines Cuba.
My parents are Joaquin Dominguez Jurado and Gladys Marin Jacomino de Dominguez.
I have three siblings,
I also have the most fantastic, diverse family a person could want. I' am so blessed in so many ways.
My Peter Pan story is very similar to others; we all share the unique experience of leaving
EVERYTHING we knew; leaving ALL that was dear and sacred to us, to face an unknown life and future; without our parents.
It was by far the most profound and life changing experience I have ever had.
Living the Peter Pan experience has molded me into the person I became, and the person I' am today.
The few lines I can squeeze into this site can never really relate, the tale of a little newly orphan girl,me, arriving to a foreign country, without a clue as to who would be waiting for me; ignorant of why I was there to begin with, and most important, WHERE WERE MY PARENTS?
When we landed in Miami, back on that fateful day, October 12, 1961, I was frighted to death, exhausted mentally and physically and so confused! I still cry for that little girl......I feel we all cry for the child we were, when we came to this new country of ours.
I arrived in Miami, was picked up by the Catholic Orphanage located and called Kendal.
My sister Ana Gladys and my brother Joaquin were with me, thank God....I was the youngest in our group and experienced many bullying incidents. My sister and I slept in one "catre" for weeks...my brother, assigned to the boys dormitory, did not remember to take a bath in weeks, he was only 7. The SISTERS assigned to take care of us were kind but strict and very overwhelmed with so many children to take care of.
Overall, I see these first months at the orphanage as a sort of a, "survival 101" period. It forced me to grow up overnight, to shed my naive girly ways, and to Morph into an alert, tougher individual, who would trust only a few. My sister Ana Gladys, older than me.....cried for my parents, and home, for weeks...I therefore had to become the "sibling" who could cope and keep it together" for at least that period of time.
Much later, we were informed that we were being sent to an orphanage in Helena Nebraska. My parents did not want us that far away and all hell broke out. WE were finally legally released from the orphanage and the three of us were separated; each going to live with a family members, so that we could stay in Florida. That experience was also doubting, as at that time all family members were newly arrived, struggling to keep alive, to get jobs, trying to secure housing Etc. I was taken in by my aunt Aracely, my mother's sister, and her daughter, my dearest cousin Randy. We lived in a single apartment with my aunt's sister and brother in law, their baby girl, and another in-law. Talk about crowded! My aunt, always looking out for me, got me a scholarship, at St.Michel's catholic school. I knew no English, had no uniform, could never "buy" lunch, and ate
food form the "refugio"....Yeah,you all remember that..."spam meat, cheese, peanut butter, and powder milk" I shudder to think back, but it kept us alive. I often wonder if I would have fared better had I attended the regular public schools. But alas, I did not....I was forced to learn English fast...I learned to divide upside down, and I learned that true friends were hard to find.
My mother and baby sister arrived in Florida almost one year later. I was so happy and thankful. My father, who still believed/hoped that Castro was a temporary insanity, waited a bit more; but finally reunited with us, months after my mother. We were dirt poor; my parents could not find work in Florida. It was through the Episcopalian Church, and a grand lady named Ms. Lucy, that we were all relocated to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles we lived at the "Projects" (Low housing HUD program, located in WLA) It was December when we arrived in L.A. and Ms. Luci, QEPD, had an entire household of "collectibles" at our new home. WE had beds, dishes, food, and even a Xmas Tree! All donations from church members
.Ms. Lucy took us to the Church the next day, and found coats, shoes and all manner of clothing, donated by church members. I cannot thank the Episcopal Church enough....They were there when we need it most...THANK YOU; and to you Ms.Lucy, may God have you in a special place in heaven; because of you, my family was able to survive, adjust, and assimilate the American life. I now know that you Ms. Lucy, helped many many Cuban families relocate to California. I will never forget you!
I was educated in Los Angeles, 4th grade through college. I began a career in Law Enforcement; and never looked back. My Exodus as a Peter Pan Kid,and ensuing experiences, always keep me focus as to how I can "pay back" the great help I was given as a child. I' am an American Citizen and this is my country; there is no other place on this planet to equal our great country.
Having said above however, I will also say that I will forever be an island girl; a Guinera; and a Cubana.
I' am very proud of my roots and who I' am. I make sure my children and now my grandson, know where we come from and what our culture is.
God bless my parents for their bravery and courage. I do not think I would have opted to send my children into the unknown; for any reason! I can only imagine what HORRORS they experienced!
Thank you all for taking the time to read my story. I will keep in touch with you all as I believe we are all SURVIVORS; VICTIMS of an event that changed all our lives forever.
GOOD BLESS YOU ALL. MARIA ELENA