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:

Maria del Carmen Perez Cancelas (Romanach)

General Information
Current Name
Carmencita Romanach
Current Location
United States of America
Name on Arrival
Maria del Carmen Perez Cancelas (Romanach)
Age on Arrival
Date of Arrival
Thursday, October 19, 1961
Relocated To
Haiti Pedro Pan
Maria del Carmen has volunteered to help the children of Haiti. Find out how you can help, too.

Maria del Carmen's Story

Today, October 19th, 2011 marks a very important milestone in my life. On a day like this, fifty years ago, I arrived at the Miami Airport with my two younger brothers, Raul and Carlos.

I would be ...

Click here to read the full story

Maria del Carmen's News Feed

Leave a public message for Maria del Carmen.

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Gracias Carmencita por compartir tu historia y fotos. El dolor de tus padres que relatas y la preocupacion por tus hermanos es algo que nos toca a todos el alma. Tu tambien tienes una familia bella, y las fotos tomadas en Cuba son maravillosas. Espero conocerte en la proxima reunion de los "PEDROPANEROS" como nos llamas tu. Gracias por dedicarle tu tiempo a esta hermosa obra. Rafael E. Padierne Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Message by Rafael Eduardo Padierne | Aug 20th 2010

Carmencita, muchas gracias.Quisiera matricularme en la escuela de abuelos.Conozco a muchos Pedro Panes altamente calificados en esta materia en adicion a mi hermano Pepe.Pero tu eres Jefa de Catedra . Muchos cariños. ...MELVIN

Message by Melvin F Noriega Plasencia | Aug 19th 2010

Definitivamente, eso tenia que ser la moda porque yo tambien tengo fotos de mis 2 hermanos de vaqueros. La voy a buscar este weekend para ponerla.

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Aug 19th 2010

Carmencita, the cowboy uniforms must have been the "toy to have" of that year or those years. Today it is "guitar hero", X-box, etc.. lol Varadero, I don't remember much of. I remember the names of some beaches we went to, but that is about it.

Message by Carlos A Cruz Martinez | Aug 18th 2010

Maria del Carmen has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Aug 18th 2010

Hola María, gracias por tu amable mensaje. Yo tambien leí tu historia tan conmovedora. Llegastes solamente unos días después que yo. También me gustaron tus fotos. Un amable abrazo a mi hermana Pedro Pan. --Carlos

Message by Carlos A Cruz Martinez | Aug 18th 2010

Carmencita, I love your photos. The ones from Varadero are wonderful.

Message by Pedro Pan Administrator | Aug 16th 2010

Maria del Carmen has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Aug 15th 2010

Maria del Carmen has uploaded new photos.

Status update | Aug 14th 2010

Las niñas que caminaban por Santa Catalina y que iban al colegio Nuestra Señora de Lourdes son cheveres y bonitas! Lo se, porque tengo amigas, primas y hermanas!

Message by Melvin F Noriega Plasencia | Aug 13th 2010

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