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:

Santiago J Urtiaga Varela

General Information
Current Name
Santiago J Urtiaga Varela
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Santiago J Urtiaga Varela
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Monday, April 23, 1962
Relocated To
CWB Mendegutia
Stayed With
Camp Matecumbe

Santiago J's Story

El 23 de Abril de 1962, llegamos a Miami mi hermano Jorge Luis y yo, fuimos llevados a Carrion para pasar esa noche, al otro dia nos llevaron a Matecumbe, en ese tiempo estaba de director el padre Pal...

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Santiago J's News Feed

Leave a public message for Santiago J.

Santiago, queria decirte que el restaurante del desayuno ha sido cambiado, va a ser en El Tropico, 8391 NW 12th St., Doral, a las 10 a.m., te queda aun mas cerca todavia!

Message by Carmencita Romanach | Sep 16th 2009

Santiago, vi que te has escrito con Carmencita amiga mia, no se si te acuerdas de mi estuve en los Maristas de Cienfuegos contigo y me acuerdo de ti y tu hermano, tambien cuando iba con mi mama a la tienda de ropa a comprar ropa para mi en la calle San fernando no me acuerdo del nombre pero ahi estaba tu papa, el y tu mama eran muy amigos de mis padres.No me imaginada que tu andabas por aqui, Embullate como dice carmencita y ves al desayuno alli nos veremos si Dios Quiere, saludos

Message by Paco Echeverra | Sep 13th 2009

Hola Santiago, por que no te animas y vienes al proximo desayuno? es este sabado 19 a las 10 a.m. en La Casona (72 SW St. y la 96 Ave.), siempre es bueno compartir...nos lo pasamos muy bien. Puedes traer a tu esposa, si se atreve....con tantos pedropanes. Un abrazo,

Message by Carmencita Romanach | Sep 13th 2009

Hola Santiago, que hace un pedropan como tu metido en Doral? Ja, ja! Es broma, yo tambien vivo en Doral con los hermanos venezolanos, colombianos, etc, etc.....y me encanta.....pon tu foto, a lo mejor nos conocemos del barrio.

Message by Carmencita Romanach | Sep 12th 2009

te recuerdad de la "dolorosa" las vecs que lo tirabamos a la piscina. Tmabien me viene a la memoria uno que cre le deciamos el Nague creo era el unico de color Dime donde estas viviendo''?

Message by Francisco S Luis Roca | Jun 8th 2009

hola creo que tu y yo estuvimos juntos para las fechas que dices y en la carpa de heriberto Espero podomos recordar y comentar sobre la experienca que nos toco vivir

Message by Francisco S Luis Roca | Jun 7th 2009

Santiago me alegro mucho de que estes bien y de que tu familia siga creciendo. Cuentame de tus padres. Yo siempre los recuerdo a todos ustedes con carino. Particularmente a tu hermano Jorge que de una forma o de otra lo he siempre mantenido muy presente en mi memoria. Un abrazo Alejo

Message by Alejo V Vada Hernandez | May 26th 2009

Santiago yo me acuerdo mucho de ti, y particularmente de tu hermano Jorge. Tambien me acuerdo mucho de tus padres. Con Jorge sali mucho a montar bicicleta en Cienfuegos. Nosotros fuimos companeros de escuela en Los Maristas. Recibe mi afecto Alejo Vada Hernandez

Message by Alejo V Vada Hernandez | May 25th 2009

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