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

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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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Hola prima, acabo de visitar este sitio. Tambien comprado un libro vendido recientemente, sobre los pedro pan...saludos desde Cienfuegos

Message by Primo Osmany | Feb 26th 2014

Thanks for your prompt and kind reply, Ada. If you permit it, I would like to post the reunion's photo in OPPG's Facebook page []and let its readers know that the Colorado PPs met again. Assuming you're amenable to the idea, would you please identify the persons in the photo by their Spanish surnames and the orphanages where they resided. Please, provide me with the exact date when you met, if you would as well. Rest assured that I will acknowledge your ownership of the photo in the posting. I can be reached by email at Once again, un millón de gracias. José Antonio Amaro Reyes.

Message by Jose Antonio Amaro Reyes | Oct 5th 2013

Estimadísima Ada: I just noticed a photograph in your profile depicting a Colorado Pedro Pan get-together this year,2013. I would like to know if, like in previous occasions, there was any coverage/writings in the local press. Please, let me know. Thank you and best wishes, José Antonio Amaro Reyes.

Message by Jose Antonio Amaro Reyes | Oct 5th 2013

As far as I know, we the Pedro Pan girls who were residents of Queen of Heaven orphanage in Denver, Colorado from 1960 until the last girl left in 1967/68 had no knowledge there was another group of Pedro Pan children in was Colorado Springs or Pueblo. There were also Pedro Pan boys at St Vincent orphanage in Denver, Colorado. It is amazing as well as appalling it never occurred to our caretakers, priests and nuns, to bring all our groups together so we could socialize and share and communicate.

Message by Marta Castillo Valero | Oct 4th 2013

Ada has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Oct 4th 2013

Hi Ada, it's almost 10PM here in SLC/ 10/3/2013. I have nothing else to do at work but surf the Internet. Came across the Pedro Pan link in El nuevo Herald and clicked on it, lo and behold there was your story. So many stories so little time! Oh well, keep sending me your e-mails and say hi to the Homeys! Ciro

Message by Ciro Alvarez | Oct 4th 2013

Ada has updated their profile.

Status update | Oct 1st 2013

Hello Ada, I'm at St. Patrick School Miami Beach. Today I speak to the Eighth Grade Class bout the book THE RED UMBRELLA... and in telling my own story I share a bit of you. I remember you and Hector as kids, I was very young, I was Rosario Ramos' little sister, Anabel. PS: I would love to meet with you next time you are in town. Love and Light~

Message by Delfina Anabel Ramos Sierra | Oct 1st 2013

Hey Ada, I found you and Hector on the Peter Pan website. Love Hector's picture. I will Juan and Guillermo to join.

Message by Roberto G Vidal Ramos | Nov 13th 2010

Ada: Were you at Queen of Heaven Orphanage in Denver, Colorado? I was there from 1962 to 1966 and I was in the Little Girls group. I am having a challenge recalling the girls from there. Maybe you can help me remember. Those years were very traumatic and painful. At times I am in awe of that 8 year old child and of her resiliency. My name then was Martica Castillo. Hope you contact me.

Message by Marta Valero | Jun 3rd 2010

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