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:

Raul Vidal Gonzalez

Raul's Story

This week marks the 50th anniversary of my arrival to the United States in search of freedom and a future, both terms completely oblivious to an 8 year old. I remember distinctly saying good bye to al...

Click here to read the full story

Raul's News Feed

Leave a public message for Raul.

Page 1 2 Next >>

Raul has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Mar 11th 2013

Raul has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Jun 21st 2012

Querido Raul: Me vuelvo a emocionar con la historia de tu maravillosa familia, así como por el amor que demuestras día a día a tu país (USA). Desgraciadamente, aquí en España sigue despertando mucha simpatía el régimen que os hizo sufrir tanto y tener que refugiaros. Ojalá pronto podáis reinvertir todo vuestro potencial en reflotar Cuba.

Message by Agustín Cano | Sep 19th 2011

Raulito, tu escrito me hizo llorar recordando toda esta historia pasada. Yo sufria pensando en tus padres como estarian sufriendo tu partida a USA que aunque ellos sabian que tu venias a un lugar seguro que era a la casa de tu tia con mi esposo Chucho y tu primo Manolo, me imagino incertitumbre de no saber cuando ellos podrian volver a verte.Lloraba yo cuando por las noches te acostabas,y siempre me preguntabas, tia Vicky cuando viene mami y papi, quizas tu no recuerdes esto, pero esas preguntas tuyas me hacian un nudo en la garganta sin poder responderte. Todo lo que hice no fue nada pues considero que estaba en la obligacion, efectivamente, para mi eras igual que mi hijo. Gracias a Dios que lo puedo contar hoy porque aun estoy viva. Te felicito por tu escrito muy profunto y sentimental.Dios te bendiga a ti y toda tu linda familia.

Message by VICKY BLANCO | Sep 14th 2011

Impresionante Raul leer lo que has escrito. Luego de 50 años todavía se puede sentir la emoción tuya que nos transmites. El coraje de tus padres y de tu mismo al venir a un país extraño y solo es un signo de que todos ustedes han estado iluminados por Dios. Solamente EL puede hacer que personas tomen decisiones como las que han tomado tu familia. Que Dios siempre te tenga a ti familia bajo SU amparo.

Message by Enrique Ugarte | Sep 14th 2011

Raul,your journey is remembered today and always. God bless you and your family.

Message by Jackie Cruz-Bustillo | Sep 14th 2011

No he parado de llorar recordando ese triste pasado - no se ni como tuve la fortaleza para tomar esa decision - esos dos meses de nuestra separacion fueron eternos, pero al fin nos reunimos de nuevo el 22 de Nov. de 1961. Por suerte esta odisea no volvera a ocurrir y si asi fuera, nos iriamos todos juntos porque esa separacion fue muy larga y dolorosa, particularmente para tu padre. Gracias a Dios todo esto es historia y pudimos felizmente rehacer nuestras vidas en este gran pais que amablemente nos acogio.

Message by Mami | Sep 14th 2011

Raul, very touching to read your narrative. I remember when I was little how I loved my mom, dad and little brother, my dog and home. It's so difficult to break away from the people and things we love so much. Your parents were so brave and your aunt Vicky must be very proud of her gesture. It paid off!!

Message by Ana Bezerra | Sep 14th 2011

Very well written! Being of Cuban decent and hearing the many stories throughout the years from my own family (my grandfather worked directly for Batista), I thank God whole heartedly for being born and raised in this country. It took A LOT of courage for your parents to do what they did but ultimately, I'm glad to know your experiences were all blessings in disguise.

Message by Gloria Rivero | Sep 14th 2011

Thank Raul for sharing your story. Amazing! God's Amazing Grace has accompany you and your family to this country. May God Bless you always, Jeanne

Message by Jeanne Friend | Sep 14th 2011

Page 1 2 Next >>

Leave a message for Raul

Your message
Your name
Your e-mail