Juan Luis Puig Rodriguez

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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 & exceptional children.) Reading some of the anecdotes from other kids (now adults) has brought back some really painful memories.

I remember my anguish after spending long hours in the “pecera” looking at our parents through the glass partition before boarding the plane. I clearly remember my sister, Haydee, and I making a pledge not to fight and argue with each other anymore, since we only had each other for support; while sitting on the plane waiting to take off.

The oppressive July & August 1961 heat and of course no A/C, the two white buildings facing each other, one for the girls and one for the boys. In between the buildings sandy dirt grounds with a total absence of grass, dirt that would crawl into your shoes & socks, maybe that is the reason for my having beautiful lawns in my homes as an adult.

I truly do not remember where I slept (I know it was a bunk bed),where I went to bathroom or showered (maybe I did not shower, very possible). I do remember that we only had 2 changes of clothing since our luggage took 3 months to arrive from the "wonderful island paradise". Who washed my clothing? Did we wash our own clothing? Did I wear the same outfit for several days?, I assume I did, perhaps that explains why I must have multiple sets ( meaning at least 12 to 15 sets) of clean underwear, socks, etc. at all times. Why do I go to the cleaners twice a week? I must have a plentiful supply of dry cleaned or laundered clothing at all times.

Remember the group crying and sobbing during the night, sort of like a scene out of a Dicken's orphanage. Also remember a glaring TV set (there were only 3 TV channels back then, so no multiple cable choices), with game shows on. Of course did not understand a word of what was being said. How many days was I there before moving to Camp Matecumbe? A mystery to me!!

Camp Matecumbe?? Lots of undesirable critters, plenty of snakes (corals, rattlers big & pygmies) big silver dollar size spiders. You always had to check your bunk for uninvited guests, at night during your sleep "things' would fall on you from the rafters or crawl in bed with you.

We had an Olympic size pool, that was the nice part, however we only had open air cold water showers next to the pool (the usual "shower before you enter the pool" type), you had to shower with your bathing suit on, and when Fall & Winter came, it was not pleasant!!

The food at Matecumbe was an improvement, I guess that after throwing away loads of "liver steaks" they learned their lesson and discontinued the usual prison fare. I survived on bologna & cheese white bread sandwiches with mustard and "early potato chips", quite different from today's chips. To this date, I always put potato chips in my sandwiches. I also ate lots of oatmeal raisin cookie bars, these were the best and since oatmeal raisin cookies were not a Cuban staple, most of the boys would not touch them, there were plenty of them left uneaten and I made sure that they were not wasted.

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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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