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:

Rafael Teran Perez

Rafael's Story

My Son Devon Rafael Teran showed me this registry this morning. I was very intrigued since I did not consider myself to technically be a Pedro Pan Refugee since I came to Miami to live with an older ...

Click here to read the full story

Rafael's News Feed

Leave a public message for Rafael.

Rafael: te puedes asomar a, un website/newsletter para todos los pedropanes para que veas los nombres ordenados alfabéticamente.

Message by Manuel A. Gutiérrez | Nov 28th 2011

Hi Rafael, My father, Jorge Guarch, better known as "George", worked for the Catholic Welfare Bureau receiving the children at the airport in Miami. If you would like a copy of the page listing your name in the "airport log", email me at and I will be happy to send you a copy.

Message by Lynn Guarch-Pardo | Oct 31st 2011

Welcome to our network, Ralph! The great majority of us share your feelings of admiration for our parents' and caregivers' courage and love and the gift of living in freedom. May you enjoy the journey as you read the Pedro Pan stories.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Oct 31st 2011

And...if you click on the "Stories" link on the red bar above, you'll see one story after another, written by the Pedro Pan himself/herself. And...same if you click on the link "Photos." You'll see all the posted photos. Wow! What an informational day this has been!

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Oct 27th 2011

Ralph: Thanks for your warm words. Please, visit at your leisure the Operation Pedro Pan Group's Facebook page at This page has been set up to educate the public about our individual and collective experiences. Thanks once again. Best wishes!

Message by Jose Antonio Amaro Reyes | Oct 27th 2011

Hello Rafael! Let me add a little bit more to José Antonio's definition. A Pedro Pan could have traveled with a student or tourist visa. As a matter of fact, those who came prior to Jan. 3, 1961, when the U.S. and Cuba broke diplomatic relations, traveled with student or tourist visas. What make them Pedro Pan is that they traveled alone without their parents. To add more details to the definition, there are a small number--I only know one personally--who traveled with one parent, but the parent was not able to care for them, so Father Walsh accepted the minor into the program. I'm very happy that you registered and posted your photo and story on this Network. Welcome!

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Oct 27th 2011

Estimado Ralph: Welcome to the Pedro Pan Network! It is a common misconception that the Pedro Pans are only those children who were cared by the Catholic Welfare Bureau, (CWB) (known today as Catholic Charities), under its Unaccompanied Cuban Children's Program. Rather, the Operation Pedro Pan Program was a visa program, called blanket visas or visa waivers, administered by the Catholic Welfare Bureau of the the Diocese of Miami in conjunction with the US Department of State. Therefore, all the Cuban children who entered the United States with such visas between January 1961 and October 1962 are Pedro Pans, regardless of who cared for them upon their arrival. Although the majority of Pedro Pans were Catholics, 700 were Protestants and 500 were Jews. In the absence of relatives and/or family friends to look after them, these latter two groups were cared for by Protestant churches and Jewish agencies. By the way you're not alone in your misunderstanding. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of former Pedro Pan children throughout the United States who up to this day do not know they are Pedro Pans by virtue of the fact that, -as in your case-, they don't consider themselves to be so because they were never under the care of the CWB or any other religious or lay institution or alternatively because of their lack of acquaintance with the term Pedro Pan itself. Hopefully, someone will bring it to their attention and encourage them to register with the Miami Herald's Operation Pedro Pan Network. Warm regards.

Message by Jose Antonio Amaro Reyes | Oct 27th 2011

Rafael has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Oct 27th 2011

Rafael has updated their profile.

Status update | Oct 27th 2011

Rafael has joined the Pedro Pan Network. Please welcome them!

Status update | Oct 27th 2011

Leave a message for Rafael

Your message
Your name
Your e-mail