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:

Gertrudis M Hernandez Fernandez

General Information
Current Name
Maytia Hernandez
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Gertrudis M Hernandez Fernandez
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Wednesday, April 18, 1962
Relocated To
CWB Florida City
Stayed With
Cachita and Perez-Martin

Gertrudis M's Story

I traveled to the USA in April 18, 1962 with my younger sister, Hilda Maria Leon. It was one year and one day after Bay of Pigs. The experience affected us in two very different ways. I was used to ...

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Gertrudis M's News Feed

Leave a public message for Gertrudis M.

Maytia, I did not know any of this but I am grateful to read about it now after all these years. Tu primo, Jorge Olondo

Message by Jorge Olondo | May 29th 2011

Gertrudis M has uploaded new photos.

Status update | May 16th 2011

Gertrudis M has updated their profile.

Status update | May 16th 2011

Gertrudis M says: Any one knows the whereabouts of Federico Oduardo, aka Corte Circuito, I lost contact with him after he left for second tour for Viet-Nam

Status update | Nov 22nd 2010

Gertrudis M has updated their profile.

Status update | Apr 22nd 2010

Maytia. ¡Hablando de la importancia de los nombres...! Discúlpame por no darme cuenta de que prefieres el nombre de Maytia y te llamé Gertrudis en mis otras notas. No pasará más. Yolanda

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Aug 13th 2009

Gertrudis, I just left a message for you at your sister's site with my condolences to you for her loss, which I reiterate here. --You were at the camp when I was there, and I recognize your face from the photo of that time. We probably stood together more than once at that fence watching the soldiers go by.--Your mother's photo of the plane at Rancho Boyeros is terrific. It hit me right in the gut, as I can imagine now, as a mother, what she must have been feeling as she tried to capture one last image of the moment her daughters left her side, not really knowing when and if she'd see them again. Gratefully you were reunited and had time to make up for that terrible moment. A Pedro Panner Hug to you, Yolanda

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Aug 13th 2009

07/12/09 Hola Gertrudis: Yo llegué Septiembre 5 de 1962 y también estuve en casa de Cachita & Martin.......Guardo muy gratos recuerdos de Cachita, Martin, la abuela y las niñas de ellos.....Mis padres llegaron 7 largos años después, ya yo me había casado, ahora estoy divorciada también. Por favor comunicate: Mis teléfonos son: Home (305)551-2269 Cel (305)299-0512 Que Dios te bendiga...........

Message by Otmara Capote | Jul 12th 2009

Gertrudis, Welcome to the database. From your story, I can tell you're a survivor, a trait of so many Pedro Pans. Sorry to hear your sister passed away. You should register her into the database. She should be there, too.

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | Jun 30th 2009

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