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:

Enrique Flores Galbis

General Information
Current Name
Enrique Flores Galbis
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Enrique Flores Galbis
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Thursday, August 24, 1961
Relocated To
Stayed With
Jose Salazar

Enrique's Story

Fear, faith, and the sea turtles.

I was eight years old when my parents decided that we would be safer in Miami, even though they had no clear idea what actually awaited us there. At the airport, my...

Click here to read the full story

Enrique's News Feed

Leave a public message for Enrique.

<< Prev Page 1 2 3 4 5

Hola Enrique, as time passes, if you'll stick with it, this site can open up a whole new world of relationships. Because of this site I have reunited with the kids who lived next door to me in Cuba, and a few others from the same town, the tiny little Central Tuinucu, Las Villas. I even reunited with a girl who was with me in St. Patrick's Home for Children, in Sacramento, back in 1962! Though we've been here all these years, I've discovered that these reunions validate my existence, in a way. They tell me, yes, I was there, I am this person, "en fin" as we said before, they anchor me. As far as my favorite artist,'s Norman Rockwell, although he was more of an illustrator, but to me the "truth" in his paintings are classic truths laced with fairy tale like innocence. Don't we wish for that kind of world again? Take care "mi hermano" and visit the site often. These are some wonderful people. Carinos- Mary

Message by Maria Petronila Hernandez Mills | Oct 26th 2009

Enrique: Like Mary, I feel the emotional impact in the brief telling of your story. What an evocative image is that of such a small boy floating away from his heartbroken parents, floating toward the unknown… (The movie The Red Balloon came to mind. Did you see it?) With me in the same flight came a little eight year old boy. I vividly remember his bewildered face as he looked back at his sister behind the glass, and how he held my hand as we walked across the tarmac to the airplane. We had been strangers before that moment, and he became my other little brother for a while. (See his photo in my profile.) It is fascinating to feel with you that sensation of unreality that accompanied you for such a long time. I can identify with it completely. A year after my departure from Cuba, I was living in New Mexico, and once in a while a hollowness opened between my ribs and I wondered, “How is it that I started out firmly planted in the warm, green Cuban soil and ended up like one of the balls of tumble weed rolling randomly with the dry winds over the desert?” -- I can understand how you became an artist after seeing Havana again. Your poem carries emotions I can understand just by seeing the pictures of Havana now. --Welcome to this network of the kids who floated away from our childhood and are now finding one another, finally comprehending many of the events that seemed so strange at that time… Con otro abrazo de bienvenida, Yolanda

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Sep 20th 2009

Hola Enrique! The brevety of your story embarrasses me, as mine is rediculously long. But as I read your words about floating from place to place, the similarity of what you say in such eloquent breif words, to the long drawn out overly detailed story I wrote is uncanny. The floating; I wish I'd thought of it! I too feel as if I've floated through a lot of my life; not in the sense of everything being easy, but in the sense that I wasn't really there, all of me, planted, anchored, deciding for myself which road to take and sticking to it. But, like you, I am now anchored and planted but growing. I too have picked up my passion and started painting again after 20+ years, thanks to my son who a few years ago gave me a beautiful easel and a canvas and said - "Ok Mom, the rest is up to you". Welcome to the site, another Pedro Pan sister! -Mary

Message by Maria Petronila Hernandez Mills | Sep 18th 2009

09/17/09 Querido Hermano: Bienvenido a nuestro network...con 8 añitos me imagino como se quedarian tus padres....pienso que la renunciación es la màs grande prueba de amor que puede dar un ser humano...y nuestros padres lo hicieron.. Un abrazo, Otmara

Message by Otmara Capote | Sep 17th 2009

<< Prev Page 1 2 3 4 5

Leave a message for Enrique

Your message
Your name
Your e-mail