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

Leave a public message for Eloísa.

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Elo, to all of you guys in Miami, thank you for keeping me/us posted. And of course, Luisa, for her articles in the Herald which I read online and her dedication to the Pedro Pans. Love you guys!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Jan 16th 2010

To Luisa Yanez: Thanks to you and The Miami Herald for stepping up to the plate to provide a forum where the various organizations and individuals may submit their offers to help in this noble endeavor. Best regards, Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Jan 16th 2010

Eloisa, muchas gracias por todo. Ya Manzur esta mejor y gracias por sus oraciones. Nos vemos con favor de Dios este fin de semana. Besos, Sil

Message by Silvia Budejen Trujillo | Jan 7th 2010

Hi Eloisa, esta buena la foto como pudieron entrar yo he tratado antes y no he podido. El Jay que esta en la foto es Castaño, si es el nosotros estuvimos juntos ahi. Esta semana yo estoy de vacaciones si me huvieran avisado hubiera ido con Uds. Happy New Year. Saludos

Message by Frank ( Paco ) Echeverria | Dec 30th 2009

Ref. a la foto nueva....estan hechas unas 'artistas' y Jay luciendoce!!!! ja ja! Hope you guys had a good time!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Dec 30th 2009

Hola Eloisa, me alegro te haya gustado la tarjeta, te deseo muchas salud y felicidad en el 2010

Message by Juanita Garcia | Dec 14th 2009

Elo, thank you for your beautiful birthday message and for welcoming me into my new extended family. Cariños.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Nov 28th 2009

E...tengo que desaparecerme por un par de horas, por favor, manten el orden aqui. Sobre todo, cuida de mi reputacion y no dejen que manchen mi buen nombre....SUSANA, CASTA Y PURA.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Nov 20th 2009

Eloisa: Te agradezco el comentario pero ten cuidado porque no creo que se lo vayan a creer mucha gente! Pero bueno, hacemos como si jugaramos domino y metemos un forro....maybe someone will buy the story.....PD. ahora ya las monjas se sacan las cejas so no problem!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Nov 20th 2009

Thank you, my friend...menos mal que me defendistes porque el primo mio, que esta amargado porque se tiene que congelar los proximos 3 o 4 meses, nada mas me tira. Of course, I would have made the perfect nun, right?

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Nov 20th 2009

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