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:

Ileana (MINICO) Ortega Menendez

General Information
Current Name
Ileana Arriola (Minico)
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Ileana (MINICO) Ortega Menendez
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Sunday, June 3, 1962
Relocated To
CWB Fla. City
Stayed With
Rev Cornelius Stefani, St John's Academy, Colfax, Wa

Ileana (MINICO)'s Story


I came when I was 12 yrs old. I remember that Mima before us leaving Guir...

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Ileana (MINICO) says: Good morning everyone! Here I am still solita, aunque da sus vueltas. Busco las hnas. Zoila& Dania Romero creo que esan en Miami. HELP!!

Status update | Jan 25th 2010

Dear Ursurpadora: After reading your 'Dear Susy' letter, I realize what a strong woman you are. Love ends, patience ends and life ends. So go ahead and keep enjoying your life and say 'in your face' to the ungrateful. Remember, 'no se sabe lo que tiene hasta que se pierde' y 'en el mar nadan muchos peces'. Just go and get a replacement part and in the future have a spare part.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Jan 21st 2010

Ileana querida: veo tus noticias de que andas mas ligera ahora. Pues, niña, recuerda aquello de que mejor solas que mal acompañadas y que nadie que te haga llorar se merece tus lágrimas. Pero no te puedo imaginar llorando, porque frente a tu fe y a tu alegría natural las nubes se evaporan pronto. Abrazos de Yoli

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Jan 20th 2010

Usted no se preocupe, hermana, que aqui la volvemos a recojer! Y eso biene de mi que bastante tengo contra tuya desde que robastes mi foto en la playa!!!! Por cierto, desde que todos estamos trabajando mucho el grupo ya no es tan reboltoso...pero algun dia volveremos.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Jan 20th 2010

Ileana (MINICO) says: 3-e caso pero pa'lante que pa'tra ni cojer inpulso..chate despues que m voy a un workshop how to cope after cancer.. see you later !! ;D

Status update | Jan 20th 2010

Ileana (MINICO) says: revoltoso que otra vez enviude uummm pero bueno tengo que ser realistic ME VOTARON como A UN grabage can como la cancion PA'LA CALLE!!! de pipi

Status update | Jan 20th 2010

Ileana (MINICO) says: Hola todos mis.. bueno ya hace tiempo que no conecto para ser exacta desde el anyo pasado jijjjijji.. les dire a las de mi grupito favorito y

Status update | Jan 20th 2010


Message by DEMETRIO PEREZ | Jan 20th 2010

Minico, gracias por la llamada. Espero hayas pasado unas Navidades preciosas y que el 2010 llegue con mucha salud y prosperidad. Carinos, Esther

Message by Esther M Gutierrez Martinez | Dec 26th 2009

Feliz Navidad y Prospero 2010! Te queremos. Casandra y Omar

Message by Casandra Guillen - Montero Santana | Dec 25th 2009

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