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:

Miguel A Diaz Alvarez

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Current Name
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Current Location
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Name on Arrival
Miguel A Diaz Alvarez
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Tuesday, July 25, 1961
Relocated To
145 SW 62 Ave, Miami
Stayed With
has I-20-D. Cty. School

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Lake Wales, Florida – On Tuesday, June 28, 2011 local business owner Miguel A. Diaz passed away from cancer, he was 57. Diaz came to the United States from Cuba in July, 1961, through the Pedro Pan Program. Operation Pedro Pan was the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere. Cuban parents fearing indoctrination and that the Cuban government would take away their parental authority exercised one of the most fundamental human rights: the right to choose how their children would be educated. From December 1960 to October 1962, more than fourteen thousand Cuban youths arrived alone in the United States. He was raised in Miami Beach and was a 1972 graduate of Miami Beach SR. High School. Daiz was a member of the 1972 state championship baseball team. He earned a baseball scholarship to Palm Beach Jr. College. He was the schools first Hispanic Student Body President. He graduated with an associates degree. He later received a baseball scholarship to Florida International University, but never graduated. He worked as a general manager in the auto industry for 13 years in California. An earthquake helped him to decide to move back to Miami, Florida. Hurricane Andrew led him him from Miami to Lake Wales Florida. In 1992, he moved to Lake Wales and founded ASI Chemical Company in Lake Wales, Fl. ASI manufactures and sells many items including degreaser’s, odor eliminators, waterless wash and wax. Miguel’s love for baseball kept him involved in the game but for a different purpose. During the last several years, he was a main supporter of the Dundee Ridge Youth baseball league and a past President of the organization. He was well known and well liked for his commitment to the program. Miguel’s son’s baseball team is traveling to the State competition on July 14, 2011, in Ocala, FL. To honor Miguel, the boys have sewn Miguel’s no. 14 (the number he wore through high school and college) and his initials on their uniforms. A private memorial Mass will be held for Miguel in Lake Wales, FL, on July 2, 2011. Another memorial Mass will be held in Miami in August, 2011, for friends and family, date to be announced. Miguel is survived by his partner Jennifer Todd; sons Trevor, Daniel and Michael; mother Josefina Diaz; brother Raul (Elly) Diaz; nieces Thania (Erick) Morris, Thalia (Nelson) Montes De Oca; great nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins. The family asks that in lieu of flowers and other gifts that donations be made to the: Dundee Ridge Youth Baseball/Made payable to: Coach Lou Morales, P.O. Box 712, Lake Wales, FL. May you rest in peace, Miguel!

Message by Jose Antonio Amaro Reyes | Apr 1st 2012

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