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

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Ileana (MINICO)'s Story


I came when I was 12 yrs old. I remember that Mima before us leaving Guira de Melena to go to the airport the next morning she told us that it was to be for only 29 days to learn English and that we were going to be with the Catholic Church and that we were going to be in good hands. Well I do not remember Mr Guarch greeting us at the airport but a small group of Sisters (Nuns) to take care of us. They gave us a couple of chicklets boxes (the yellow ones) and took us in a bus to Florida City.

There we were taken from the Nuns' house with our newly personal stuff to the Baldor's house, and sincerely we could have not gotten better house parents in Florida City than them. I remember their daughter been there with us and sharing everything with us, and if I don't recall bad her name is Teresita; which I would love to get in touch with her and thank her for her parents since I think that they have passed away.

I remember that everybody in the campamento we were forced to go to the park behind it, and we were told that there were poisonous snakes so we were all afraid of going, but we went anyway.

SHortly after our arrival (my two older sisters Amparo Cosio & Isis Fernandez) I met a wonderful person that had just come in from Cuba in June 26 if my mind doesn't play tricks on me, and her name is Conchita Ripoll and she was older than me but we clicked and I found her to be closer to me than my own two sisters & STILL IS; she had a younger sister Ritica which she was at the Baldor's house too, and of course their brother Robertico which he was staying in the camp but at a boy's house, and in the same building but in the house behind us we met 3 girls by the name of Martinez, Luisa Maria, Isabel Maria & Esther Maria and of course they had a brother, Emilito, that also was staying at a boy's house. We all were so lucky to have been sent to the same academy; St John's Academy in Colfax, Wa. But we were afraid in the days before been sent because there was a rumor going on that big families (3 or more) were going to be split apart and we were going to be sent to different places instead of keeping us together, but that was not true; we ended up being taken care of by Fahter Cornelius Stefani in Colfax and a man, very powerful man, money wise and politically wise by the name of Mr McDonald and they cared very much about us.

I greatly thank my Mom, Guillermina Menendez for having had the courage of sending us to the USA when she did, and I suffered, and cried as I did for missing her I could imagine how she was because I was crying for her, but she was crying for the three of us not being with her, so MIMA upthere in heaven where you are right now I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart; I know we were apart in different countries but you always made it possible to keep us in touch with you by calling us every single sunday where ever we were and that is keeping us in your heart always. I will never say thank you so many times enough for your courageous act upon sending us to the unknown you made the right decision; I would do it the same way if I had given the tough choice to choose, so MIMA GRACIA Y TE ADORO..

I have no resentment for her making this choice; I have no evil to speak of anyone in the Catholic church to mishandling me or abusing me or anyone of us in the academy, except for one house parent that she used to abuse of me by sending me to the laundry room every saturday as punishment because she had her favorite ones and THOSE where never sent to the laundry room because while she took care of us on the weekends, so Orencio & Herminia Aguilera would get their days off her; and her husband would take care of us and of course she always sent me to the laundry room;BUT IN REALITY GOD ALMIGHTY I DO HAVE THIS PARTICULAR THING THAT I WASH CLOTHES BETTER THAN ANYONE, SO THOSE PUNISIMENTS MADE ME BETTER THAN ANYBODY IN THE "WASHING CLOHTES BUSINESS' LOL; that part has been always bad on me, and really I don't even know why she called me one day, I guess that she saw her end near and she wanted to come clean out of her guilty conciencia, and try to see if I still remember anything and when I told her I still remember all she did was laugh, so I guess that she still enjoyed her evil way towards me so there to me she was not worth of even mentioning her...she had her favorites one so let those keep her memory of being "good" alive because I do think that she did abuse me mentally that way that still to this day I remember all of those saturdays and nor would I ever forget; she stole from me all those wonderful saturdays of not being able to play as the others..So besides her I had wonderful people such as Pepe Gorrin, Professors Iraida & Nestor Mederos, Sergio & Caridad Sanchez, the Aguileras that even been a little tough they did mean well and of course MY WONDERFUL Father Stefani.

I try to keep in touch with most of the kids from upthere, but still I am missing Santa Iparraguirre, Carlos Knapp, The Enamorados' sisters, Caridad Martin, Zoila & Dania Romero, and a few others not many after those mentioned, if anyone of you might know where they are please let me know at my number (786) 499-1992 or email or visit our web page THANK YOU MONS. WALSH AND THE BISHOP CLEMENS (he passed) WHICH HE DID GIVE THE OK FOR MONS WALSH, WAY BACK THEN JUST A PRIEST, TO ALLOW US TO COME TO THE USA....©

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Ileana (MINICO) has updated their profile.

Status update | Aug 7th 2013

Ileana tu no has cambiado en nada de cuando llegaste por Peter Pan a ahora sigues con la cara igual ya he mirado todas tus fotos de Peter Pan tu eres amiga de Emy Botet Zuloaga que estaba en tu mismo campamento y ella estudio en el Colegio Lestonnac en Cuba en la misma aula mia mira a ver si me puedes poner en contacto con ella tambien debes conocer a Charito Izquierdo que estaba en tu mismo campamento en Peter Pan a ella se le murio el esposo hace unos dias. Ella canta en St. Brendan Catholic Church. Mi e-mail es

Message by Elsa de la Maza | Dec 16th 2012

Hola Minico. Voy a estar por Miami en Noviembre para reunirme con mis antiguos colegas de los Maristas. Te contactaré para ver si nos podemos reunir junto con otros amigos de Spokane y Colfax). Un abrazo Raul

Message by Raul De Jesus Cano Chauvell | Jun 6th 2012

Gracias por contestar,me gustaria saber cuando tu me conociste ? Yo tengo una hermana que vino conmigo de 12 anos como tu. Llegamos a Florida City en Feb. 1962, salimos para Spokane en Junio de 1962,ella fue a la Academia y yo me quede en el college de las monjas de Holy Names, me gradue en 1966. en ese ano llego mi mama. Keep in touch !

Message by Zeida Rife - Kirik | Oct 1st 2011

Ileana, yo estuve en Spokane, pero no en Colfax, siempre me acordaba de la trabajadora social pero se me habia olvidado el nombre, gracias por recordarmelo, que pena que no la pude ver antes de ella fallecer.

Message by Zeida Rife - Kirik | Sep 30th 2011

Querida Ileana (Minico): mi esposo es Pedro Pan de La Habana. Y seria bueno que se comunicara su e-mail es: yo soy Guantanamera y escape por la base en el ano 1970.Vivimos muy orgullosos de la operacion Pedro Pan.Saludos, George & Alina

Message by wife: Dr.AlinaM. Budejen | Apr 27th 2011

Ileana (MINICO) has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Feb 28th 2011

Ileana, Muchas gracias. Vivo en las afueras the Raleigh NC. Todavia estoy aprendiendo como usar este website. Jose

Message by Jose E March Naon | Feb 26th 2011

Ileana (MINICO) has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Feb 17th 2011

Hola, Ileana Minico, como estas tu y tus hermanas, no se de que fotos de Facebook me hablas, las que si vi son las de la primera comunion de Ritica y me hizo recordar lo que lloramos ese dia al ver entrar a los cubanitos a la Iglesia al lado de sus hermanos, mientras los americanitos entraban con sus padres. Veo que todos los de la academia o no saben de esta database o no les gusta porque casi ninguno se comunica en ella, tu eres la unica. Si para el ano que viene hay alguna reunion me gustaria ir Dios dira. Delia

Message by Delia Rojas | Feb 17th 2011

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