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:

Yolanda Cárdenas Díaz

General Information
Current Name
Yolanda Cardenas Ganong
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Yolanda Cárdenas Díaz
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Saturday, August 4, 1962
Relocated To
CWB Florida City
Stayed With
Haiti Pedro Pan
Yolanda has volunteered to help the children of Haiti. Find out how you can help, too.

Yolanda's Story

A story teller once told me that all stories begin in the middle. As I write this, the middle of my story has 17 years on one side and 47 on the other. For thousands of us Pedro Pan children, the midd...

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Please, can you call me back? 7863520203

Message by Jose Ariosa | May 14th 2014

Mi historia es casi igual,vinimos mi hermana y yo pues mi hermano ya estaba en Florida City, el vino dos dias despues que Juan, el 26 de Abril,tienen que haber estado en la misma casa la de "Los Chinitos" de dos plantas.Nosotras vinimos en Mayo del mismo ano y estuvimos en casa de Perez Martin, frente al comedor,nuestro caso fue bastante parecido mis padres iban por Espana y tuvieron que venir por Mexico, estas en Miami? me lei toda la historia es casi igual a la nuestra. Leonor

Message by Leonor | Nov 18th 2013

I am a Freedom Flight kid but, I have seen and read the stories and accomplishments of the Pedro Pan generation and I understand them fully. I will always be proud of this generation of Cuban exiles in the United States. The pain and loneliness of family separation will never be completely understood unless you have experienced it. And yet, despite lonely days and nights, this generation grabbed their bootstraps and trenched themselves a pathway of success only rivaled by the Jewish immigration of yesteryear. Only in America, you’ll get to see these things. It is the Land of the Free because of the Brave.

Message by Sergio M Capablanca | Sep 8th 2013

Le dí sin querer a enviar. Te deseo lo mejor. Besitos, mi querida compañera de viaje.

Message by María Josefa Enríquez Yebra | Aug 11th 2013

Yolanda, me he acordado mucho de tí. Ya son 51 años y los que nos quedarán. Espero que muchos, así madie puede decir nada contra nosotros, ni tampoco mentiras. Yo cuando oigo alguna por aquí, respondo por todos nosotros: ¿Estabas tú allí para saberlo o simplemente lo has oído? Yo estaba allí... Es un gustazo inmenso callarles la boca a esos prepotentes socialitas. Algo he conseguido, cada vez veo más gente, que sabe lo que realmente pasa en Cuba y ya no se creen las bobadas, que cuentan desde allí.

Message by María Josefa Enríquez Yebra | Aug 11th 2013

Mi linda hermanita Pedro Pan, tu siempre con tus lindas y alentadoras palabras. Gracias por ser tan especial. Un fuerte abrazo para Tony, los niños, y para ti, que todos tus deseos se te den. Marcos

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Jan 31st 2013

Ola Yoli, estuve viendo las fotos que pusites y ahi pude ver a Janet que alegria me dio verla, donde esta ella?y la de Teresita Baldor que bien estan esas fotos siempre bueno cordar nuestra hermanitas del exilio. Estoy tratando de ir en Nov. a la fiesta ojala tu puedas ir. Cariños Tete Extremera.

Message by Maria T Extremera Hernandez de Armas | Aug 6th 2012

Yolanda has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Aug 5th 2012

Yolanda, no te dije nada, pero yo vivi en Columbia SC, abri una tienda en Columbia Mall, pero despues me fui... vivi en la area de St Andrews

Message by Raul Bello Maspoch | Aug 2nd 2012

Yolanda tienes toda la razon sobre la musica, es mas, ahora estoy haciendo dos horas de musica cubana por el internet en quien hubiera dicho eso .. llega a 20 paises de 4-6 hora de Dallas-TX

Message by Raul Bello Maspoch | Aug 2nd 2012

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