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:

Matilde Aguirre del Campo

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Hola Matty-glad to find you here

Message by Adriana De La Caridad Comellas Urquia | May 7th 2012

hola Maty, es Rita

Message by Rita Rodriguez- Pardinas | Feb 15th 2010

Hi, Your name sounds so familiar. Did you go to school in Puerto Rico?

Message by Joseph L Oroza Ruilopez | Feb 11th 2010

Matildita - It's Lucy, your cousin from Matanzas. Silvia sent me your e-mail. I'm so glad you found us . . . We need to catch up . . . Hope to hear form you.

Message by Lucy Alonso Rivero | Feb 9th 2010

Hola Matilde! Welcome to our Network! It's been many, many years since those days of the Pedro Pan breakfasts at Versailles. I thought of you many times and wondered where you were. Cariños, Eloísa

Message by Eloísa Echazábal | Feb 8th 2010

Well, Maty, it's about freaking time you registered! As you can see, I posted a message to you on June 12th so it has only taken you 8 months to get on your email and responded....I have made contact w/several people from Indiana and maybe you'll remember some. You can't imagine how many people I've told the story about you 'dreaming' my last name and locating me that way when I was till living in Miami!!! Talk to you soon...

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Feb 8th 2010

Matilde has joined the Pedro Pan Network. Please welcome them!

Status update | Feb 7th 2010

Matildita, if this is you I believe you are my cousin. We shared a bunk bed in Kendall when you first arrived. My grandmother and Hino were sisters....I just discovered this site and saw your name...maybe one day I'll hear from you. Lucy told me that a while back you had emailed "papi"...and that you spent time in Mexico?? Hoping to hear from you...

Message by Silvia Alonso White | Aug 5th 2009

Matilde...I'm surprised you haven't registered yet....if and when you do, let me know

Message by Susy Rodriguez | Jun 12th 2009

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