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:

Mario R Sanchez Lopez

Mario R's Story

i just turned six years old when i left cuba.

i first recall some confusion at the airport in havana that necessitated some last minute negotiations. then helped onto the airplane by a nice klm fli...

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Mario R has updated their profile.

Status update | Oct 21st 2013

Mario: Gracias por escribirme tú a mí. Como debes saber, ya se han producido varios y muy valiosos libros, artículos, estudios y reportajes referentes a la experiencia emigratoria forzosa que pasamos los niños de Operación Pedro Pan. Quiero que sepas que, ahora que gracias a este registro muchas más de nuestras historias han salido a relucir, yo personalmente he recibido mucho aliento para que escribiera algo más sobre ellas. De modo que entre otra “niña” Pedro Pan -quien es escritora profesional- y yo por fín estamos proyectando producir una obra que sea algo diferente a las otras, quizas tan inclusiva como extensiva, no solamente con el enfoque de perpetuar nuestras historias para nuestros descendientes, sino a la vez que nuestras experiencias sirvan de ejemplo para otras generaciones porque, desgraciadamente, dondequiera surgen y seguirán surgiendo niños desplazados. Para esta tarea vamos a necesitar leer muchas historias con muchos más detalles. Quisiera poder seguir en contacto contigo, porque tu historia y la de tu hermano me parecen que son muy significativas. Sin intentar meterte en compromisos, te invito a que me escribas a mi dirección de correos que aparece en mi profile. Si quieres/puedes y como puedas. Repito, sin compromisos ni empujones ni motivaciones ocultas, porque creo que si algo aprendimos muchos Pedro Pan es a vivir de cara al sol y a confiar en la parte buena de la humanidad. Agradecida por tu atención, Yolanda

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Feb 6th 2010

Mario: First of all I give you my condolences for the loss of your brother. I read about his passing and his enduring sorrows in your note to Guillermo Jaume. I am very moved by your story. I hope to exchange some more thoughts and memories with you, as you bring up some fundamental topics regarding our experiences as displaced children. I am interested in the lessons we have learned and how our knowledge and insights can help others. I’d love to hear more from you, but I would understand if you prefer not to get into this subject. Just know that here is another sister in spirit. –By the way, I have a couple of M&M kids too: a son named Matthew and a daughter named Myra. Hugs to you and your beautiful family, Yoli

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Feb 3rd 2010

Mario R has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Jan 21st 2010

Hola. Mario. Estuve contigo en Mount St. John's despues que llegamos de Cuba y pasamos 2 an~os en esa escuela. Ahora vivo en Ft Lauderdale y me gustaria comunicarme contigo. ?Tienes contacto con los demas de nuestro grupo? Willy Jaume

Message by William Jaume | Jan 20th 2010

WOW you sure made a good lemonade out of your lemons. So did I! It's called LIFE. It happens to some better than to others; at the end is what you do with it that counts. BUT look at us now! I find the "bruises" well worth it.

Message by Maria de las Nieves Aulet de Velazquez Pizarrosa | May 28th 2009

I consider your narrative a very candid account of your Peter Pan journey. My compliments to you!

Message by Juan L Puig | May 24th 2009

Mario, I have to tell you that I love that picture that you downloaded. How I wish I had my passport picture to do the same.

Message by Martha Ginory | May 17th 2009

HI Mario I came on June 3, 1962, but surely love that picture of yours..tell us about your story...keep me as in my connections and I will keep you in mine..ileana

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | May 17th 2009

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