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:

Benito Prats Martinez

General Information
Current Name
Benito Prats Martinez
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Benito Prats Martinez
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Friday, September 8, 1961
Relocated To
Stayed With
José Prats

Benito's Story

This person has not yet filled out their story about their flight as a part of Operation Pedro Pan.

Benito's News Feed

Leave a public message for Benito.

Hi, I'm brazilian and I would like o know your hisory because I dreamed wih your name: Benito Prats and I put in the Google and found you exist!

Message by Lara | Nov 27th 2011

The picture of me and you in 1963 was taken at the Cloughs house in the dining room. I can tell by the wall paper. Love from your sis, Marga

Message by Margarita Elia Prats Lora | Jul 6th 2010

I have posted our story on the Pedro Pan site. Marga

Message by Margarita Elia Prats Lora | Jul 6th 2010

Benito has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Jun 15th 2010

Benito has updated their profile.

Status update | Jun 15th 2010

A message from Myself (Benito) to all who visit my page: I went to funeral services for my friend on Saturday. He had a massive heart attack. Like me he came on the Peter Pan Flights (his page is not filled in and may never be filled in) Some folks sympathetic to the current Cuban government were also at the funeral and said that he always suffered because of Peter Pan Exodus but that I, Benito, had overcome the trauma. I responded that I am sure that there are ten times as many children (or more) and young adults in Cuba that suffered ten or more times the trauma at the hands of the communist and have stories that can not be recorded because of fear or because of the communist media block. I know of two stories; my cousin (one year younger) who went to these camps and suffered but that I have not been able to discuss the pain; and I know an older friend who was in her twenties and tells us many stories to this day of all the trials and sufferings she experienced in Cuba - she could not wait to get out with her Mother but had to wait for her friends who arrived earlier to the US to request their exit. She had to leave her mother alone in her house and go to these camps to pull crops and become infested with lice and tics for the communist regime. she tells many tails of the suffering she experience physical, verbal and emotional. She was fortunate to be with a group of girls from her church who protected each other from abuse but to this day she is still suffering from the trauma as indicated by many accounts in her stories. There are probably many others who have died or can not find a place (like this Peter Pan Site) to tell their stories and get all this off their chest. I should have probably shut up at the funeral like I normally do and not react to these wicked tales from the Communist propaganda machine of how bad it was here because of Peter Pan Exodus but I know in my heart that it would have been far worse for all of us to have stayed in Cuba. Mami and Papi made a very intelligent, very calculated, extremely painful decision to send us here for our own good because they loved us. It may skip our generation and a few other generations but somewhere down the line parents will have to make this decision again - to love your children so much that you are willing to place them in the hands of God for just a few moments so they will not suffer as you know you will suffer when they are gone and separated from you. This is how I truly feel and I love Mami and Papi with all my heart then, now and always. Love to all - your Brother Benny

Message by Benny | Apr 19th 2010

Dear Benito, I am Graciela (Mendez) Anrrich, one of the two sisters (the other one is Lourdes) who went with you to Syracuse o in September of 1961. I would love to hear from you. Love, Graciela

Message by Graciela Anrrich | Apr 16th 2010

What a lovely picture !! All of the generation taking care and loving the newest generation.. You can tell that there was LOVEEEEEE !! Write your story; it's not easy but at least you will be able to share it with us; which we have gone thru the same pain.. you take care..

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Jun 18th 2009

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