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:

The Stories

Read the story of Pedro Pan in the words of those who lived it.

Most recent stories (page 2)

By Maria Del Carmen Ferrer-Miralles
Jun 16th 2014
6 people loved this story.

On March 21, 1962, my sister Magaly (age 6) and I (age 8) arrived at Miami's airport expecting to be reunited with our aunt and two older brothers who had come in July 1961,as our parents had told us. But our aunt never picked us up and eventually we were taken to Florida City where we stayed a week. Our aunt had a difficult time making it as a guardian of the boys and decided that the best for us was to be picked up by Pedro Pan. On March 29, 1962, my sister and I were ... (read the rest of this story)

By Antonio (Tony) R. Rivera Martinez
Jun 11th 2014

Spend time in Florida City, Opa Locka and St. Rafael, after my parents came from Cuba back in June 1966 we move to New Orleans, LA. Graduated from John F. Kennedy High School. After attending Delgado Community College and received an Associated Degree in Automotive Technology, I was drafted and joint the U S Marine Corps, after six years in the Corps, I joint the U S Coast Guard Reserve where I retire. I was a business owner of Penny's Auto Chassis Inc. I currently own C.N.R. LLC. in Kenner, La. I am semi retired, enjoying life, in my ... (read the rest of this story)

By Abelardo C Roque Escobar Pardo
Jun 4th 2014
3 people loved this story.

Well… I never really heard of “Pedro Pan” until years after I was in California and someone mentioned it to me. This is how really disconnected I was and have been.

This all started one morning after about 4 hours at the Havana airport, going through lines, being questioned and made to wait some more, I finally waved goodbye to my dad on the other side of the large glass wall and went to get in the plane. I arrived at Miami International Airport on July 18, 1962 at about 12:00 noon or so. I was on a KLM flight ... (read the rest of this story)

By Pablo Alcazar Meruelo
Jun 1st 2014
2 people loved this story.

Within year of arrival was joined by my parents and sistema Myriam and in Dec 1962, relocated to Hartford, CT.

Studied HS in West Hartford and attended Villanova University (MSEE) and The Thunderbird School of International Business (MBA).

After a brief stint as a design engineer, spent most of professional career in telecom industry and over the past several years as CFO / COO for a cigar manufacturer and reseller.

Relocated to Miami area in 1987. Married to Marlene and have a son Paul.

By Carlos W J Bermudez Zayas
May 27th 2014
1 person loved this story.

Carlos W. Bermudez

Emperador de Antilla, Virrey de la Bahía de Nipe y Conde de Alburquerque,

By Alfredo F Fernandez Fernandez
May 11th 2014
6 people loved this story.

Me mandaron pa' un orfelinato en Davenport Ia. (St. Vincent's). Estuve 3 años con las monjitas; los viejos GAD llegaron a NJ y alli estuve hasta que me gradue de MD en Filadelfia en el '75.

Llevo casi 40 años arreglando huesos rotos en "San Pancho". (La unica ciudad casi tan linda como nuestra Habana)

Naci en ella, fui a Belen, jugue pelota, al kimbe y cuarta, patine en El Vedado y monte a caballo en Guanabo.

Estoy muy orgulloso de ser Cubano, Yankee y Pedro Pan.

By Maria Rita Caso
May 10th 2014
1 person loved this story.

It has been a long and never ending journey

By Rene Lorenzo Luaces
Apr 20th 2014
4 people loved this story.

Camagueyano --

I was only 7 1/2 years old and mad as hell to leave Cuba because my father had given me a beautiful horse for my 7th birthday. We broke-in the horse in time for me to ride him twice. The first time was a long ride all over the ranch with my father, which I had never done before. Having 10 siblings, his time was sort of hard to come by. LOL

I was very fortunate compared to many of the other Pedro Pan children. When my PanAm flight touched down on 3/30/62, I had family ... (read the rest of this story)

By Juan Francisco Fernandez Borrego
Apr 15th 2014
2 people loved this story.

November 26, 1961 arrived at Camp Matecumbe, welcomed by Minina and Cuco. Lived at the camp until released in June of 1962 upon arrival of my parents to Miami.

Coral Gables High class of '65. Diploma

Miami-Dade Junior College, Associate Degree in Criminolgy and Police Science 1968.

Florida State University, Bachelor of Arts, School of Social Welfare, Department of Criminology 1971.

Married in 1973 to a wonderful woman Marina Escobar. Three children, two girls and one boy, ten grand children

1974-2004 Miami-Dade Police department. After thirty years of continued service Honorbly retired as Police Bureau Commander.

By Maria Eena Dominguez Marin
Apr 5th 2014
4 people loved this story.

My name is Maria Elana Dominguez Marin. I am from Guines Cuba.

My parents are Joaquin Dominguez Jurado and Gladys Marin Jacomino de Dominguez.

I have three siblings,

I also have the most fantastic, diverse family a person could want. I' am so blessed in so many ways.

My Peter Pan story is very similar to others; we all share the unique experience of leaving

EVERYTHING we knew; leaving ALL that was dear and sacred to us, to face an unknown life and future; without our parents.

It was by far the most profound and life changing experience I have ever had.

Living ... (read the rest of this story)