American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora to preview Operation Pedro Pan exhibit at Tuesday press conference for March 24 reopening
The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora invites the press on Tuesday, March 21 at 10:45 a.m. to preview its upcoming March 24 reopening, which will feature exhibits telling the extraordinary story of Cuban children whose parents sent them to the U.S. to escape Castro’s seizure of power.
From 1960-1962, more than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children from all races, regions and socio-economic groups left their homeland to board commercial airline flights to the U.S. The effort was coordinated by a network made up of Cuban and U.S. branches of the Catholic Church, private schools and family contacts to shield children ages 6-18 from forced conscription in communist reeducation centers.
In 1962, Miami Herald reporter Gene Miller later referred to this extraordinary historical chapter as ‘Operation Pedro Pan.’
Tuesday’s press conference and Wednesday’s reopening will, for the first time feature exhibits depicting the different stages Pedro Pan children endured throughout their journey as they fled Castro’s Cuba to build a new future in the United States, often clinging to the hope they would be reunited with their families. Most eventually saw their parents again, some did not.
Once in the United States, many Pedro Pan children were able to live with family members and friends, while others grew up in foster homes and orphanages—and even camps and group homes.
Despite being separated from their actual families in Cuba, Pedro Pan children wrote home often, but also bonded with one another as ‘brothers and sisters,’ visiting each other in camps and attending parties and local excursions together including trips to the parks, shopping centers and the beach.
Among the 14,000 plus Cubans who took part in this extraordinary historical chapter are U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Sunshine Gasoline Distributors owner Max Alvarez, Codina Partners CEO Armando Codina, MBAF Chairman Tony Argis, famed author Carlos Eyre, singer Willy Chirino and Miguel Bezos, the father of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Marcell Felipe, the museum’s current Chairman said he expects the exhibit to attract both Miamians and visitors to the area.
“I think there is understandable anticipation in the Miami community to see this exhibit because it is personal to fourteen thousand Pedro Pans, many of whom now have their own children and grandchildren. It is also of great interest beyond the Cuban-American community because on the one hand, it is a human story of sacrifice, family, separation and loss—and on the other, it is a story of hope— how even in the face of evil, there were people like Monsignor [Bryan A.] Walsh who took risks to save innocent children from a system of hatred and violence.”
The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora is non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded in 2016 and made possible by the 2004 Building Better Communities Program, enacted by the citizens of Miami-Dade County, the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of Commissioners.
Tuesday’s press conference will preview the museum’s first exhibit since it temporarily closed its doors during the pandemic, and also since it transitioned to new leadership in November 2019. It currently operates under the leadership of its Chairman, Marcell Felipe, Museum Director Carmen Valdivia who is also the President of the Pedro Pan Historical Committee and the curator of the exhibit, and six trustees, Miguel Cossio, Mario Garcia, Nelson Hernandez, Raúl Masvidal, Alejandra Moreno and Jesús Tundidor.
Since the museum’s November 2019 transition, the museum’s financial condition greatly improved. Overdue payables were completely eliminated, overall payables were reduced 98 percent from $217,000 to $4,900, and museum liabilities (excluding Covid-19 relief programs) were reduced 28 percent, totaling a $300,000 debt payoff in just a little more than a year. Currently, the museum has no pending litigation.
“This exhibit marks the rebirth of this historic institution as it reopens with a commitment to excellence in all aspects of its operation with the ambition of rising to the same expectations and standards of the world’s most recognized museums,” Felipe said.
The Tuesday 10:45 a.m. press conference will be open to all credentialed members of the media. For more information or press photos please contact the Museum at 305-529-5400.