Cuban immigrants share precious family heirlooms to show history of Cuban exiles by Janey Fugate jfugate@elnuevoherald.com 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. http://www.miamiherald.com Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/26/v-print/4257131/cuban-immigrants-share-precious.html#storylink=cpy

Mercedes Rodriguez Vega

5 people loved this story

Mercedes's Story

My brother and I arrived at MIA on 5/27/62. My brother turned 7 (5/30/62) in Florida City. I was too young (4) to remember much other than being pampered by the older girls as if I was their new doll. My father arrived in Miami not long after, but could not take us from the camp until he had proof of a decent place to live and a job. My mother arrived a bit later. We were fortunate! I remember my brother saving our "allowance" for when my parents came to get us. I also remember sending them chewing gum to Cuba.

Mercedes's News Feed

Leave a public message for Mercedes.

Querida hermana: Solamente pensar que viniste con 4 añitos me aprieta el alma...y QUE A ESTAS HORAS TODAVIA TE PREOCUPE CUBA ME HACE LLENAR DE UN ORGULLO TREMENDO POR TI (POR QUERAS UNA BEBITA CUANDO LLEGASTE)...PORQUE EN REALIDAD NUNCA ESPERE QUE ALGUIEN QUE LLEGO CON 4 AÑITOS PUDIERA TENER SU PATRIA TAN PRESENTE.....ME GUSTARIA COMUNICARTE CONTIGO... UN ABRAZO BIEN CUBANAZO, OTMARA

Message by Otmara Capote | Feb 21st 2011

Mercedes says: Pedro Panes, alertas!! http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Por-el-levantamiento-popular-en-Cuba/173839132658920

Status update | Feb 18th 2011

mercedes. Me encantaria hacer un libro de las historias de los niños Pedro Pan.!! Me ayudarias a colectarlas? Silvia Bolet

Message by silvia bolet | Jun 16th 2009

Hola Mercedes no se ni como explicarte, yo estaba en Florida City en ese tiempo, estaba en la casa de Los Cesari (Nino, Peluca, Caruca y Mercy) ahi llego una niña que coomo era tan pequeña la pusieron a dormir conmigo que era una de las mayores, esa niñita se que tenia un hermano y que los papas no los dejaron salir con ellos. yo me fui del campamento Junio 1/1962. queria saber si eras tu, se que quisas no te acuerdes pero quisas tu hermano o tu papa cuando llego, le dijeron con que house parents tu estabas. mi nombre es Donaida y mi e-mail es donaida33172@yahoo.com si eres tu me gustaria hablar contigo y saber como te ha ido, pues creeme aquello de tu llegada solita me impacto muchisimo (yo tenia 16 años) Bendiciones

Message by Donaida | Jun 4th 2009

Hola Mercedes, Esta son las historias que nunca hablan de ellas, para aquellos que no nacieron en Cuba, como yo. Pero que me gusta saber las historias de Cuba.

Message by Zori | May 17th 2009

Mercedes hola vinistes unos dias antes que yo cuentanos tu historia...ileana

Message by ileana | May 17th 2009

Leave a message for Mercedes

 
Your message
Your name
Your e-mail