It’s an amazing story and it involved Cuban children from 5 to 18 years old. From 1960 to 1962, parents took their children to the airport, put them on plane, and waved goodbye.
We now call it “Operation Pedro Pan” and the numbers were staggering, according to Operation Pedro Pan Group, Inc:
“From December 1960 to October 1962, more than fourteen thousand Cuban youths arrived alone in the United States.
What is now known as Operation Pedro Pan was the largest recorded exodus of Unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere.Theexodus of the Cuban children was virtually unknown for over 30 years.
Msgr. Bryan O. Walsh who is considered the Father of our Exodus states that the name had only appeared in print in March of 62 and in a Reader’s Digest article in 1988.”
Over time, “los Pedro Pans,” as they are affectionately known in the Cuban American community, were integrated into US life. In most cases, they became successful citizens of the US.
Over the last few years, many of these “Pedro Pan” have decided to write down their stories. It probably started with Carlos Eire’s “Waiting for snow in Havana” and followed by a series of books, such as one called “Cuba adios” by Lorenzo Martinez. My friend Victor Triay also wrote about it.
These books serve important objectives:
- they remind us of our parents and their sacrifices;
- they show the incredible generosity of Americans all over who helped these youngsters settle in new towns and cities very far from the tropical winds of Cuba;
- they provide reading material to the young Cuban Americans born in the US. Many of them are in high school or college and could use these books to get closer to their Cuban grandparents; and,
- they will allow future historians, in a hopefully free Cuba, get the background information about the Cuban immigration of the 1960s and 1970s. I’m not sure how much Cubans in the island know “the exile story,” especially the sacrifice of a coming to a new land.
I’m thrilled that more and more Cubans are telling their stories. It’s amazing how similar and different they are.