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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Yoli gracias por tus palabras tan lindas tu hermano FERNANDO

Message by Fernando L Collado Gonzalez | Mar 13th 2010

Yolanda has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Mar 13th 2010

Thanks Yolanda, I appreciate the positive comments. By the way, I read your story and we really have to thank our parents for what they did. I have 2 children (they're adults now), and I can't even imagine what our parents went through. It took my mother until I was 40 to actually talk about it.

Message by Juan C Morales Brunet | Mar 12th 2010

Gracias mi hermanita, de verdad que Ramon sabia de verdad....ya todo muerto esta y yo ni le llamo el de vez en cuando y dandose cuenta que como yo hacia la madre no hay mejor..vistes??? Sabes algo del crucero???

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Mar 12th 2010

Yoli como estas nina??? Yo aqui ya se me fue la morinya que tuve al cenicitas botarme.....lee lo del crucero....y dejame saber si sabes si alguien va...

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Mar 12th 2010

Yolanda has updated their profile.

Status update | Mar 12th 2010

Thank you for your kind words, Yolanda. Alberto Garcia de Soria

Message by Alberto G. de Soria | Mar 10th 2010

Gracias Yoli, lo mismo para ustedes, fue un placer en conocerte a ti tanto como a Tony y espero poder reunirme de nuevo con ustedes y los demas Pedro Panes.

Message by Manuel J. Izquierdo Rodriguez | Mar 9th 2010

Hola Yoly, long time no hear from you! Espero que todos esten bien por casa. Tengo una duda que quisiera que me refrescaras la memoria, no recuerdo la cantidad de allowance que nos asignaron semanalmente en Florida City. Recuerdo que era una cantidad de dinero pequeña y unos sellos de correos pero no recuerdo cuanto, te recuerdas? En tu ultima visita a Miami me quede esperando conocerte a ti y a tu esposo, se que estabas muy ocupada. Quizas sera en la proxima. Que Dios les bendiga y les colme de salud.

Message by Oscar R Vega Hernandez | Mar 9th 2010

Dios te oiga Yoli, gracias por hacer presente. Marcos

Message by Marcos F. Pinedo | Mar 8th 2010

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