Ileana M Manso Campos
Ileana M's Story
I left the island at the age of 11, with my sister Mayra (8), and two younger cousins, Vicente Orlando(9) and Jose Avelino (7). Our parents told us on April 16th, 1962, that we were leaving Cuba the next morning, and would reside in Miami. They also said they would be joining us as soon as possible. I had plenty questions, but did not get too many answers; at least none which put my fears to rest. This was very difficult for me...I did not understand, and felt responsible for my sister and cousins.
When we arrived in Miami, someone from Operation Pedro Pan was waiting for us, but also our uncle...and we went to his house. My uncle had five children of his own; now the four of us, and another cousin who arrived a month later. We lived in a two bedroom/one bath home, and we all did our very best to deal with the situation. Every Friday we would all drive to Matecumbe and pick up yet another distant cousin to stay with us until Sunday night.
For the younger kids this was fun and a vacation. This experience was very painful for me...being older I understood that it could be I would never see my parents again.
My heart still aches for those children whose last memories of their parents was through the glass of "La Pecera" (the Fish Tank)...the holding area where we were placed when surrendered to authorities, and where we were searched before traveling.
My parents did arrive in Miami a year later, and we all hoped we would be returning to our beloved Cuba soon. It was not to be! They both passed away recently...tears running down their faces, reminiscing on their land, family, friends...knowing they would never set foot on that soil ever again. I have not been back either. It is my desire to do so some day; show my place of birth to my husband, children, grandchildren...and to do it in memory of my parents, Amelia Ramona Campos and Mario Manso. They, like so many other caring parents, made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure freedom for their children...I was one of the blessed ones who got to be reunited.