I have recently arrived back from an extended trip to Miami, FL where I attended the 50th anniversary of the Pedro Pan flights that brought so many of us Cuban children to the U.S.
I arrived alone at the Miami Beach Resort Hotel where the event was held. I thought it was appropriate, arriving alone at this venue to commemorate the day when I had arrived alone in Miami. I was about to reunite with two cousins and several grade school friends, some of whom had disappeared from my life when I was a child in Cuba during the time of secrets.
I asked the cab driver to let me out on the sidewalk in front of the hotel instead of at the hotel door. The long driveway in front of the hotel was crowded with cars delivering other Pedro Pans to their destination. I had plenty of time and walked up the driveway slowly, scanning faces for any sign of recognition and taking in the Miami fashion scene unfolding before my eyes. I am used to Northwest fashion now, with its emphasis on comfort. I have grown to love lose clothing and flat shoes. Standing near the front steps to the hotel I admired the long gowns floating past me and wondered how so many women my age managed to balance themselves on four inch heels.
I closed my eyes for a moment and felt the warm salty air all around me, caressing my skin. Memories of Cuba on the edge of my mind becoming visible, I chose not to allow them entry, opened my eyes and walked up the steps. The moment I stepped inside I felt the electricity in the air. Fifty years of yearning to see familiar faces, cries of recognition, tears of joy and of sadness for all the time that had been missed. Eyes searching, darting from face to face and wearing a look of kindness and love even when recognition eluded them. Fifty years later….would we recognize each other’s faces? The pre- dinner cocktail party was in full swing and as I walked up the steps to get my name tag I was swept into the arms of friends I had kept up with or reunited with recently, and we found ourselves facing a society photographer. Smiles. Memories of other society photographers when we were children of prominent families and our pictures appeared in the Retrograbado de la Marina. Hugs followed. We agreed to meet later at the banquet table where ten of us would sit together for the first time in forever.
Voices beckoned from the noisy ballroom. Words bounced off the walls and flew around trembling like bubbles about to burst. Is this what walking into heaven would be like? Recognition, embrace, words and sobs spilling out as the heart reconnected with long lost loved ones? Would joy like this greet us? Is that why so many of my hospice patients looked blissful as they took their last breath? I approached a table to get a snack and heard “Yolie!!” my old name…I ran towards the voice and into the arms of my cousin Seida and her sister Sonia. Indescribable joy and tears at the years we had missed. The miracle of love that continues to fill me with awe. I hadn’t lost even one little bit of the love I felt for them then- if anything, I loved them more! And so it went with other reunions that night…Emy, Adela, Yoli, Elena, Ana, Beatriz.
Before dinner we gathered. I am not sure of the attendance but there were ten to a table and we were on table 58. A wonderful dinner followed and then we were treated to Cuban music by a very good Cuban band. Time didn’t stop, it flew by entirely too fast; but what a gift the night was for all of us! What a wonderful opportunity we had, not only to reunite but to thank all those responsible for our celebration in freedom!
On the first page of our program our sentiments were made clear:
“We the children of Pedro Pan offer our heartfelt thanks, love and appreciation
to our Pedro Pan heroes on both sides of the Florida Straights for their unselfish
sacrifice to give us the opportunity to live in freedom
and help us achieve our dreams.”
Adriana, fue un gusto en conocerte en esta oportunidad y por tratar de embullar a tus amigas a venir a tan bonita celebracion.
Fueron como 700 personas que fueron a la fiesta.
Hojala que nos podamos ver otra vez el año que viene.
Dentro de poco empezaremos a planear lo del año que viene pues en esa fecha cerraremos el aniversario de los 50 años.
Espero que puedas venir con el grupo de tu amigas.
No hay fecha todavia pero seria el segundo y tercer weekend de Noviembre, asi que empieza a planear.
Todo fue un exito y espero que el año que viene sea mejor.
Igualmente, Paco. Tremenda fiesta y quedó muy bien todo. Muchísimas gracias por estar al tanto de nosotras con todo lo demás que tenías que hacer. Vamos a ver si es posible volver el año que viene a repetir la bonita experiencia. Gracias por visitar mi blog!
It was indeed a magical night….having moved to Atlanta in August, I did not plan to attend this reunion and had not sent my reservation in;however, when it became a Merici class of 66′ reunion of sorts, between you and Seida coming down for the for the first time since our Merici school days in pre-Castro Cuba and Beatriz, Anita and Adela in the picture…it became a very exciting trip for me! I’m so glad I booked my flight immediately, because it was a very worthwhile event for me to attend as a Pedro Pan and I got to be in the company of my Merici classmates. The ballroom was “electric” with energy galore…50 years since the Pedro Pan flights….indeed a “nostalgic” event with a successful ending.
Paco Echeverria was very accomodating, and managed to save us a table…by the time we all started getting enthused they were pretty much sold out.
Many Pedro Pans I know came to say hello, from Miami, and from other states that were visiting also, I got to dance quite a few times, and they really made me feel welcome. I ran into friends I haven’t seen in ages….it was a pretty wonderful night.
Yes Emy, and your presence was important to all of us. Glad you came!
PS – I have to add, Carmencita Romanach, as usual a professional lady with a “warm heart”, which is what I love in people, was a great help along with Paco in our securing a table for ourselves at the last minute. Many blessings to Paco and Carmencita!
I’m so glad our 1966 Merici Reunion went so well motivated by Adrianne and Seida’s visit to the Pedro Pan Gala. Our Merici 1966′ reunion was a success…
Thank you Emy for your comment and for pointing out that we were at table 58 not 53!
Yoly, Ya puse la foto en Facebook, me das permiso para poner tambien tu escrito? el de Emy lo voy a poner.
Gracias por mantenernos informadas, ya no pude verte personalmente, pero te vi en la foto y ademas en la Television.
Si, Dulcita, tienes mi permiso para ponerlo en Facebook. No sabes cuanto siento no haber podido verte! No renté carro al fin y tuve que depender de la pobre Ana cuya tía mas querida murió precisamente durante mi estancia! Me alegro que pudiste ver la entrevista de TV! Espero te haya gustado.
Si Dios quiere nos vemos la próxima visita!