If you thought that the worst possible fate was about to befall your family and you had an opportunity to save your child, would you? Even if that meant you might never see your child again?
In Havana, Cuba almost a half a century ago, over fourteen thousand parents answered yes to those questions and Operation Pedro Pan (Peter Pan) quietly began. Ours was a silent exile of fourteen thousand plus children secretly flown to the United States from Cuba to escape the Revolutionary government of Fidel Castro.
The government had already seized private property, closed the churches, and expelled the clergy from the country. The shouts of Paredon! Paredon! had not quieted and people continued being shot and killed by firing squads, many times without the benefit of trial. Our beautiful national anthem had been replaced by The International, the hymn of the International Communist Party.
In the schools indoctrination had already begun. Children were told to ask God for food. Nothing happened. Then they were told: “Ask the Revolution for food” and their plates would be filled.
Our parents were afraid. They couldn’t leave the country. So they decided to send us. Six to sixteen, we filled the camps like Matecumbe and Homestead created specifically to house us for what everyone thought would be a short time. Some of us were fostered, others sent to orphanages. We were scattered all over the U.S.
I have been asked so many times if I didn’t think the decision to send us here was barbaric. How could our parents abandon us in such a way- throw us away not knowing if we would ever be reunited?
As I look back, now that I am a mother and grandmother, I think those parents made the ultimate sacrifice out of a love that knew no bounds. And I think they were wise.
In the process of my collaboration with Martín Guevara, I have learned how difficult life became for the children who stayed. Yet I ask myself if I could have done what those parents did. Could I have been so unselfish? Could you?