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:

Ada Diaz Perez

General Information
Current Name
Ada Diaz Perez
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Ada Diaz Perez
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Sunday, October 15, 1961
Relocated To

Ada's Story

My brother, Hector, and I were sent to Sacred Heart Orphanage in Colorado. We did not have family who could take us in so we lived there for 4-1/2 years. Subsequently we were sent to foster homes an...

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I respect,value and honor your resilience. Quite a strong little girl! I have no doubt that you have become a compassionate and hard working human being. I feel deeply for the challenges that both you & your brother encountered.Our pain is a very private pain. As it is often said...we bend but do not brake... be well

Message by Enrique Casero | Mar 18th 2010

Hola, Ada. The idea of having a Pedro Pan Retirement Village has also been discussed among some of the “kids” in the recent reunions. Who knows? Maybe one our many enterprising people will actually come up with something like that. –Ada, it touched my heart to think of the long time you and Hector were separated from your parents and even more about how you two were separated from each other. My brother was not yet 12 and I was 17 when we came and I remember that the three things I worried most about were: 1) Being separated from my parents indefinitely. 2) That Conrad and I would be sent separate ways. 3) Being sent to an orphanage. You went through all three of these things. You are another example of the resiliency and resourcefulness of the human spirit and of the Cuban kids of the exodus, but it is still too sad that you had to go through all that. –Ada, I got one almost identical twin of your cat. He's meowing at my feet right now. His name is Goyo and he weighs 20 pounds. He’s ridiculously silly, but extremely sweet. – Con un abrazo Pedro Pan, Yoli

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Mar 14th 2010

Ada, my name is Ivonne Garay I was in Denver at the "queen of heaven orphanage" do you know anyone that was there?

Message by Ivonne Blank Garay | Mar 14th 2010

hello Ada this is the other Ada from the orphanage (Andion) nice to see you after all this years

Message by Ada (Andion) Silva | Mar 8th 2010

i think we may have crossed paths..All the best to you!

Message by Jose Arango Buzainz | Feb 14th 2010

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