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:

Eloísa Echazábal Pi

General Information
Current Name
Eloísa Echazábal
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Eloísa Echazábal Pi
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Wednesday, September 6, 1961
Relocated To
Kendall Camp and Buffalo, NY
Haiti Pedro Pan
Eloísa has volunteered to help the children of Haiti. Find out how you can help, too.

Eloísa's Story

My story is unique, as is each one of the over 14,000 Pedro Pan stories. Some are happier; some are sadder. I believe the decision to send my sister and me alone to the United States was made by my pa...

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Eloísa's News Feed

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Happy 4th, Elo......

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Jul 4th 2013

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! ¡Feliz Cuatro de julio a todos!

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Jul 4th 2013

Eloísa has uploaded new photos.

Status update | May 20th 2013

My Letter to Yoani Sánchez: 1 de abril de 2013 Yoani, ¡Bienvenida a Miami! Mi nombre es Eloísa Echazábal, y vine para los EEUU en septiembre de 1961 a través del éxodo Pedro Pan. Yo quisiera pedirle el favor, de que cuando regrese a Nuestra Patria, le aclare al pueblo cubano la verdad de por qué ocurrió nuestro éxodo. El gobierno comunista de la Isla no pierde oportunidad para decir que todo fue una trama de la CIA norteamericana y que nuestros padres fueron engañados y que los niños fueron usados como fichas en el juego político de los EEUU en aquellos tiempos. Nada de esto es cierto. Nuestros padres nos enviaron a los EEUU en cuanto se dieron cuenta de que la libertad de expresión, la libertad de cada padre para continuar educándonos y criándonos como todos estábamos acostumbrados, se iba acabando cada día más. En otras palabras, cuando le quitaron a los padres el derecho de como iban a educar y criar a sus hijos. Uno de los mayores ejemplos de esto fue cuando los colegios privados fueron intervenidos y la doctrina marxista-leninista fue implementada en todos los colegios y escuelas de la Isla. De acuerdo que los EEUU le facilitaron a los padres la salida de sus hijos de Cuba y la estancia en los EEUU pero, quédese bien claro, que los padres lo que hicieron fue aprovechar esta oportunidad para asegurarse de que sus hijos pudieran continuar viviendo, educándose, y desarrollándose en un ambiente de libertad como estaban acostumbrados. Eloísa Echazábal (una de las niñas Pedro Pan)

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Apr 4th 2013

Eloisa, I have just read your story.Immensely significant work that you are doing for future generations. I am proud to be a member of this group of brothers and sisters.

Message by Luis Crispin Perez Barrios | Mar 26th 2013

Eloísa has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Mar 18th 2013

Muchas memorias pero no fotos de Eastern. Carinos!! Casandra

Message by Casandra Guillen - Montero Santana | Mar 15th 2013

Eloísa has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Mar 5th 2013

Eloísa has updated their profile.

Status update | Mar 4th 2013

Eloísa has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Feb 14th 2013

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