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

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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I'll be with Manny Izquierdo from Tallahassee. Remember him? You met at our Central Florida reunion. Also, Lynn and Felix will be at our table....see you there!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Nov 21st 2013

Elo, are you going on Saturday? Hope to catch you there although it's usually so crowded that it's hard to catch up with everyone. It promises to be a great gala!

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Nov 21st 2013

Hi My twin sister and I attended El Vervo Encarnado, I left after 6th grade for another school but Tete stayed and remembers the militia entering the school. We live in Ampliacion de Almendares and tour first name sounds familiar to me. i as always addressed by my knick name "Magaly". Enjoyed reading your story.

Message by Margaret Ferraioli | Nov 17th 2013

Gracias Eloisa por tan interesante historia. Que risa me causo cuando Bobby te invito a un baile y tu immediatamente le dijiste que tenias que llamar a tu madre en Cuba para pedirle permiso! How Cuban was that? Quiero que sepas que me causo mucho trabajo montar las 4 fotos en mi pagina; Josie me tuvo que ayudar ya que soy bastante torpe en las cosas tecnicas. Ojala que pronto pueda montar fotos de las actividades de Pedro Pan incluyendo las de la presentacion de mi ultimo libro.Un abrazo, Fernan

Message by Fernando P Hernandez Lorenzo | Oct 13th 2013

I'm happy you like my Ga Pedro Pan group, Eloisa. Thanks for your support. Blessings.

Message by Emma A. Botet Zuloaga | Oct 2nd 2013

Thank you Eloisa!

Message by Elisa Vilano Chovel | Aug 31st 2013

Muchas gracias Eloisa. Gracias por tu ayuda con este website. Bendiciones desde Ga.

Message by Emma A. Botet Zuloaga | Aug 29th 2013

Hola Eloisa, The original photo that I saw of you and your sister was when she was younger and I thought it looked like my friend Teresita. After looking at some other photos when she was a bit older I don't think it was the same person and I realized that she is two years younger than I am. We may have played together at the school and I do wish that she was the same Teresita but I was so touched by your story regardless. Some memories of El Verbo Encarnado are, recitng poems on Friday in the patio of El Verbo Encarnado when we had the salute to the flag. I also loved to participate in programs at El Verbo Encarnado and remember the "cottage" by the patio. I actually had my kindergarten class there and loved the teacher and sometimes I think that my desire to teach (at first to be a kindergarten teacher) started very early because of that wonderful influence (although I now teach at a college). Seeing your photos with the "uniforme de gala" and the medals (which I still have some of them) brought back many memories. I remember sometimes arriving early and the sisters would offer me breakfast and they would serve "white" butter with bread. I thought that was great and wished that I could have that more often. They used to let me practice the piano at the school until my parents purchased one for me. I have so many other wonderful memories of "El Verbo Encarnado" which I would love to share with you and your sister even though I don't think she was the Teresita that I used to play with. Thank you again for your story and memories I do hope that we can keep in touch. I hope to post pictures in the near future. I'll check my email. Recuerdos,Rosalinda

Message by Rosalinda Gayoso | Aug 1st 2013

Hola Eloisa, I just registered yesterday with this site and enjoyed reading your story. I did not realize that my brother and I had been part of Operation Pedro Pan until I happened to see it and found our names with the information as to when we left Cuba etc. I didn't realize this since when we came from Cuba in January 1962 we immediately went to New York to live with an uncle and aunt. I read your story and wanted you to know that I also went to El Verbo Encarnado and had a good friend named Teresita. I don't remember her last name but she looked somewhat like the picture of your sister. My maiden name is Rosalinda Gayoso and my brother is Miguel Gayoso but he only attended el Verbo Encarnado for a few years. I was 10 years old when I left Cuba and he was 13. I have not had a chance to write my profile or load any photos but would love to hear back from you and see if Teresita my friend was your sister. Did you live in an apartment house? I somehow recall going to play at Teresita's house and I thought it was beautiful because it was an apartment. Isn't it funny how kids are? Do you know others that attended El Verbo Encarnado? I would love to hear from you. Muchas gracias, Rosalinda

Message by Rosalinda Gayoso | Jul 31st 2013

Eloísa has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Jul 29th 2013

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