For more than five decades, Miami has been a safe haven for families, mostly of Hispanic backgrounds. Many refugees fleeing persecution and indoctrination came to the United States in search of opportunity and freedom. But none of these migrations were as large as the Pedro Pan children’s exodus.
HistoryMiami Museum is currently showing a Pedro Pan exhibit that documents the mass migration of the children with photographs, video testimonies, airline tickets and other artifacts. It is also working with Operation Pedro Pan, which helps connect Pedro Pan kids to their backgrounds and paper files.
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The rise of the Fidel Castro government in 1960 and 1961 left Cuban parents to decide whether their children would be raised in a communist nation. Many decided to send the youngsters to the United States.
In the biggest migration of the Western Hemisphere, 14,000 children were sent to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. They arrived between December 1960 and October 1962, mostly on airplanes, their parents paying up to $25 each for airfare.
Most of these Pedro Pan children would have been turned away if it hadn’t been for the Rev. Bryan O. Walsh, priest for the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami. The State Department gave Walsh permission to issue visa waivers to any Cuban child between ages 6 and 16. He personally welcomed them and gave half shelter in the centers for the Catholic Church, while the other half went to live with relatives and family.
On Jan. 14, HistoryMiami will hold a symposium about the current increasing need for child services.
“We hope that visitors will learn more about the current state of children’s affairs and also see how they can become involved and make a difference in our community,” museum director Jorge Zamanillo said.
The panel discussion will feature Dr. Peter A. Gorski of the Children’s Trust; Liliana Oliveros of Our Kids; Michele Mordica of the Parent Academy; and Rosa Maria Plasencia of Amigos for Kids. The discussion will be moderated by Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.
The museum will offer light refreshments and the galleries will be open to those who attend.
If you go
What: Operation Pedro Pan Symposium.
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.
Where: HistoryMiami, 101 W. Flagler St.