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:

Juan Luis Puig Rodriguez

General Information
Current Name
Juan L Puig
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Juan Luis Puig Rodriguez
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Sunday, July 23, 1961
Relocated To
SW Miami
Stayed With
Kendall & Matecumbe

Juan Luis's Story

I have blocked out a few days/months of my childhood (my childhood ended July 23. 1961), specifically our stay at "Kendall" (Kendall Hospital was a county hospital and an institution for wayward & e...

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Leave a public message for Juan Luis.

Creo que estás exagerando un poquito, Juanito. Yo estuve en Matecumbe de Septiembre a Noviembre del 61 y todo Febrero del 62 y nunca vi ni oi que cayera nada de los rafters! ?Te acuerdas del los bailes de los viernes con las niñas de Kendall?

Message by Manuel A. Gutiérrez | Jun 17th 2011

I believe it was Gables HS, I do not remember much of Florida City as I was 12 at the time. Goof to hear from you, God bless. Frank Colunga

Message by Frank M (Panchito) Colunga Machado | Jun 2nd 2009

Love your story an very grateful to you for telling it. It seems that sometimes if we say that the camps were bad we are not grateful.

Message by raimundo espinosa | Jun 2nd 2009

Hi Juan, For a person that has blocked memories, you do recall a lot of details of your stay at Kendall and Matecumbe. Certainly our leaving our families and country was a "life changing event" that we, as children, did not quite understand at the time. I also had blocked memories and for a long time I had the feeling that the world had stopped and I had gotten down of it. Is that what you felt too? You have made a lot of connections of your actual behaviors to what happened to you at that time and it is good to be aware of those things as they will help you somehow to deal with a lot of emotion that you quite haven't done yet. It is never too late to do that and feel better. I will love to meet you, come to our meetings sometime, or write me. Your pedro pan sister, Carmen Romanach

Message by Maria del Carmen Romanach(Perez Cancelas) | May 31st 2009

Thank you, that was a very good story

Message by Juan F. Pujol | May 25th 2009

Si Haydee no te contesta, yo se la respuesta. Tambien se que te preste muchos dinero (dimes & quarters), casi todos los Sabados, para jugar en las maquinitas cuando nos dejaban en el Downtown. Yo llegue 7-31-61 (Kendall)y me fui (Matacumbe) Nov-?-61. Preguntale a tu hermana or cun~ado quien yo soy.Ojala que nos veamos pronto. Cuidate

Message by Justo Alejandro Martinez Monzon | May 18th 2009

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