Every Cuban exile story is remarkable in its own right, but the stories of the 14,000 Pedro Pan children who came to the U.S. alone are extraordinary.
‘The lucky ones:’ Cuban brothers to reunite with Nashville family who took them in 60 years ago
The three young brothers were scared.
They were in a city called Nashville. They had never heard of it and were living with a family that didn’t speak Spanish, away from their parents who’d just split up back in an unstable Cuba.
And the boys — Pablo, 13, Carlos, 11 and Luis, 9 — didn’t speak English.
That first Sunday, though, in the large house just off Belmont Boulevard, their smiling American hosts set out a spread in the dining room.
“It was a big country style breakfast,” Carlos Fernandez said, laughing, in a phone interview with The Tennessean 60 years later.
“Biscuits, ham, eggs and everything you could think of. It was amazing!”
With lots of gesturing, pointing and patience, the hosts and guests figured things out.
And the Fernandez brothers — whose parents wanted them living away from the police state that revolutionary Fidel Castro created — always felt loved and cared for in that Nashville home where they stayed from 1962 to the end of 1963.
“They treated us like family,” Carlos Fernandez said.
“From the first day,” his older brother Pablo Fernandez added quickly.
“They” were “Mama Bess” and “Daddy James” — Sarah Elizabeth and James Leo Rowan — active members of Christ the King Catholic Church who had boarded people from other countries in their home for 10 years.
The Rowans were among a dozen or more Catholic families who took in more than 40 Cuban refugee children in the Nashville area that year.
Continue reading and see video HERE.