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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Bueno to all of you my true dear friends THANK GOD the time has almost come to GO BACK TO MIAMI AYYYYYY QUE rico!!! back to pain but my real thing !!! read on the next message enjoy you all and pray that on the 30th I WILL BE IN MAIMA !!! UUUUYYYyyyy

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Sep 28th 2009


Message by Carmen Valdivia | Sep 20th 2009

Here are four youtube videos for you all to be able to see the Diva performing in Las Vegas on 09-18-09

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Sep 19th 2009

minico, did you ever reach pedro toledo-garcia? if so please let me know. i have tried to find him for 30 years. the pedro i know was a soldier at fort campbell in 1970. he sold me a blue, '66 vw bug when i left the army. please let me know if you have made contact or not, so i can decide on future search options. thanks a million.

Message by ken howell | Sep 16th 2009

Ay, Ileana, ¡qué contratiempo! El único consuelo es que lo que te ha pasado no es un daño a tu salud. Por suerte te diste cuenta y los credit cards te dan cierta protección para no perder mucho dinero. ¿Hasta cuando vas a estar en Las Vegas? Yo pensaba que ibas a California. Mira, no dejes que nada te apague la chispa alegre que tú tienes y sigue pasándola bien. ¿OK? Un abrazo de yoli

Message by Yolanda Cardenas Ganong | Sep 9th 2009

WOW... Vaya I was having such a terrific time (?????) as you all know in Las Vegas and BINGO I went to Bonanza Souvenir Place the other day and bought $42.50 and they stole my credit card info and today (9-9-09) when I went in to Bellagio, Mirage & Treasure Island web page to buy tickets for the Cirque Du Soleil shows and check my bank info I find out that HERE in Las Vegas they have been buying stuff with my card...thanks heaven that right away I cancelled my card and transferred my PBRE CASH to one of my other accounts...holy SHU!!! if you ever come to Las Vegas BEWARE !! DO NOT USE your cARDS here CONYOOOooo y hablan de Miami.. wow..ahora si no fuese porque voy a dos shows de Cirque Du Soleil y al Grand Canyo ME LARGARIA ahora mismo de aqui...

Message by Ileana Arriola (Minico) | Sep 9th 2009

Ileana, Gracias por tu mensaje e oracion a Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre en su dia. Le ruego que te proteja en tu viaje y regreses descansada y feliz.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Sep 8th 2009

Ileana: Aunque no nos conozcamos (espero que algún día pueda ser), te escribo estas líneas para que sepas que nuestra Madre del Cielo ha escuchado con gozo tu plegaria y te concederá lo que pides. Yo me sumo a tu oración, pidiéndole para ti la paz y luz que necesita tu hermoso corazón. Bendiciones hoy y siempre.

Message by Ivonne Martín | Sep 8th 2009

Ileanita, que bella te ha quedado esa oracion. Pienso ir a la Misa en honor a la Virgen de la Caridad en la Universidad de Miami esta noche y tus intenciones estaran alli presentes pues prometo llevarselas. La Virgen llegara a las 7PM y la Santa Misa comienza a las 8PM se que querras participar aunque sea en absentia. Cariños, Carmen

Message by Carmen Valdivia | Sep 8th 2009

09/08/09 Querida hermana: Mil gracias por mandarme una nota tan linda y tan hiciste llorar. Cuando vuelves al pueblo??????Te acuerdas de: Me voy pa'l pueblo hoy es mi dia voy a alegrar toda el alma mia! We want you back!!!!! Love Otmara

Message by Otmara Capote | Sep 8th 2009

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