4

Pedro Pans Descend on Miami for 50th Anniversary, but Program Still Mysterious

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

A half century after their parents first sent them out of Cuba and to the United States, more than 100 former members of Operation Pedro Pan will return to Miami today.

As part of a 50th anniversary weekend, Pedro Pan veterans and their families will tour today three camps around Miami where they were briefly housed before relocating to foster homes and orphanages around the U.S. and in Puerto Rico.

"It was a very traumatic experience for all of us," says Carmen Romanach, who was a child relocated during the operation. "The bond is very special. When you see us together we are like kids again."

"We went through the same experience together, so we feel like brothers and sisters," says Romanach, who is also a director of the Operation Pedro Pan Group organizing the tour. "It's part of the history of the United States and Cuba."

At least 14,000 children left Cuba via Operation Pedro Pan from 1960 to 1962, as Fidel Castro consolidated power following the Revolution. The program was run by the Catholic Church and was the brainchild of Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, then the head of Catholic Charities in Miami.

But much mystery and controversy still surrounds the operation. María de los Angeles Torres, who has written a book on both the program and her own experience as a Pedro Pan child, says the story behind Operation Pedro Pan is much more complicated than most admit.

First, many more than 14,000 children may have been relocated, she says, and a great number of them were never reunited with their parents, as originally intended.

Second, at least 80 of those children have since claimed that they were victims of sexual abuse by priests in the United States.

That reality makes the program's anniversary a bit more difficult to celebrate, she says.

"Everybody has to deal with their own personal stories how they want, both politically and personally," Torres says. "My work is not about pointing fingers or saying that we were victims, but about trying to figure out what really occurred."

Torres also says her experience, and that of the thousands of other kids who passed through the program, holds a lesson for groups currently trying to help children in other parts of the world, especially Haiti.

"Sometimes, good-hearted people end up doing things that inadvertantly hurt the children they are trying to help," she says.

The Operation Pedro Pan Group tour starts today at 8:30 a.m. at the Miami Beach Resort and Spa at 4833 Collins Ave. The group will then visit three old camp sites (Kendall, Matecumbe, and Florida City) before an afternoon visit to the Operation Pedro Pan monument in Little Havana. Tickets are sold out.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.