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Today, these children and their families struggle to heal the emotional scars of their long separation. By the time her aunt and uncle landed in Miami and took them out of the home, the sisters were noticeably thinner. We don’t run advertisements. After the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, all commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba ceased, marking the end of the airlift program. Annotation. The program was designed to protect Cuban children whose parents were being targeted by Fidel Castro’s new regime—and to shield them from the Communist ideologies feared by the U.S. at the height of the Cold War. Amid this hysterical stew of fact and fiction, however, there were also reports of a U.S. government program to grant quickie entry visas to any children escaping from the island. HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate. that happened, parents would lose legal custody of their children. By that or some such thing. Operation Pedro Pan Group Operation Pedro Pan shaped the lives of a generation of Cuban-Americans. Conde has tracked down hundreds of these children to tell their diverse stories--their uplifting, poignant, and sometimes tragic experiences in American foster homes and orphanages. ranks of the opposition to Fidel Castro. Then they were put in foster homes and institutions all over the country under the auspices of the Cuban Children’s Program (CCP), which was run by Walsh and the Catholic Welfare Bureau.

Undoubtedly, it would be a most effective “In Cuba, there are no children on the streets, no children out of school, no children without access to health services or culture, and there are no unprotected children without opportunities for development,” said Jose Juan Ortiz, UNICEF representative in Cuba. Two months later, they were placed in a foster home. Or the thousands of kids sent to Russia after the Spanish Civil War. The boys were actually supposed to be claimed much sooner, and had been forgotten by their social worker.
mouth. the first 500 visa waivers in his briefcase. Unlike Peter Pan, however, During the Cold War, many thought it was worth any price to rescue children from indoctrination into Communism—even if it meant sending them to the U.S. without any chaperones. “I was glad to go to the other side of the Cold War,” says Eire. The first wave of emigration occurred directly after the revolution, followed by the Freedom Flights from 1965 to 1973. Yvonne M. Conde is a freelance writer in New York City.

In retrospect, Peter Pan--the forever young spirit--was an odd symbol for this U.S.-sponsored airlift that would eventually bring 14,000 Cuban children to Florida for a sudden and chilling plunge into adulthood and survival in a strange country. Even though travel restrictions may be lifted as relations thaw, thousands of Cubans are still leaving for the U.S., seeking new opportunities. These parallel tracks would weaken Castro’s government while US trainers prepared a Cuban-exile invasion force, which, in turn, would coordinate with CIA-backed urban terrorists and guerrillas. Life in the orphanage was HORRIBLE for all of us there, not just the cubans. From 1960 to 1962, Cuban parents who had heard of the program took advantage of visa waivers to put their kids on flights to the United States. children to America, unaccompanied, hoping to meet up with them later. In 1962 Frank Sterling was on a flight from Cuba to the United States on what was to be known later as the Peter Pan Flights. During the following months, over and over again, the station would (It “I have no desire to go back,” she says. Radio Swan, a clandestine short-wave station supposedly set up by the CIA on a small key off the coast of Cuba, warned parents that their children were about to taken away, probably to the Soviet Union for brainwashing and indoctrination. The Cuban flag flies at a Pedro Pan camp in Florida City. He liked his first foster family in a home where he learned English mixed with Yiddish (“I didn’t find out until I moved to the Midwest later,” he laughs). ), “We are a brotherhood,” says Dash, who now lives in Fairfax, Virginia. “The overwhelming feeling I had which carried me through all the hard times was that life was so much better here without the Castro regime,” he says. As a Peter Pan refugee who came to the U.S. alone at age 14, my queries are less sinister and more personal. She suspects another anti-Castro plot by the CIA. and 18 years old. In the modest middle-class neighborhood where we lived, our friends also were disappearing, as if stricken by a plague, selling off everything in their homes and furtively leaving town at night. After being there for several months, most of the boys despaired that they would never see their families again. After the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, all commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba … On August 11, 1961, at the age of ten, Yvonne M. Conde left Cuba in one of the world's largest political exoduses of children in history--Operation Pedro Pan. Between 1960 and 1962 more than 14,000 children were sent out of Cuba alone by desperate parents who feared for their children's future under Castro. Between 1960 and 1962, the program airlifted more than 14,000 Cuban … Maybe, if NPR staff thought ironically they would’ve done a more accurate report on Operation Peter Pan. I know exactly what this book is all about. READ MORE: The Largest Mass Deportation in American History. Some families were in fact reunited, though the October Missile Crisis in 1962 ended both Peter Pan and the exit of parents who already had children in the U.S.

these children continued to grow up even while separated from their By 1963, the preteen had been living in the foster home for months, accompanied by his brother and a revolving cast of characters—boys from troubled backgrounds who constantly tried to convince the Eire boys to join their gangs and commit petty crimes. The CIA refuses to release Peter Pan documents, but abundant testimony shows the Agency forging documents and spreading lies, with Father Walsh and the regional Catholic hierarchy. Then there were the feverish rumors about other calamities yet to come. Series 6/12 - New one each month! Today, children who lived through Operation Peter Pan have created a national charitable organization and can connect with one another through a network that has registered nearly 2,000 Pedro Panes. In 1960, he arranged foster care for a Cuban child named Pedro Martinez, an unaccompanied boy who had come to the United States as a refugee. NPR’s claim of “no evidence” of CIA involvement would have dissolved had they asked Veciana or questioned why the CIA still refuses to release its 1500 plus documents on that Operation  — while de-classifying archives on the Bay of Pigs and the 1962 Missile Crisis? If you got to stay with Walsh, Vizcaino says, you were one of the lucky ones. Writing with compassion and rare insight, Yvonne M. Conde uncovers the true tales of a little known episode of the Cold War. I was taken there at age 3. Suddenly, the idyllic Cuba of Eire’s childhood became a “hell” in which he was forced to praise Castro’s regime in school, limit his movements, adjust to life under surveillance and watch his family succumb to the effects of paranoia and stress. If

than 14,000 children were sent out of Cuba alone by desperate parents who
His memoir Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy won a National Book Award in 2003. The Eire boys were now independent teenagers. Hundreds of other teenagers were already there, including some of my classmates and teachers from my Catholic school in Cuba. All air traffic stopped between the two countries beginning in October 1962. Once inside the nurturing borders of the greatest country in the world “Pedro Pan kids have done well,” Allen concluded, without explaining what “well” means. In fact, "Bishop" That five year old left Cuba in one of the world's largest political exoduses of children in history-Operation Pedro Pan. Before he died in Miami, wrote Alvaro, Angel told his family “he had been one of those responsible for drafting the false law that gave rise to the hysteria.”. In his 2007 autobiography, Castro writes that the children were free to go at that time, but he says the rumors about bad treatment in Cuba were false. Vizcaino, 70, is now a Certified Public Accountant living in Miami, a husband and father of three daughters. Yesterday I again asked my mother, now 84 years old, what she remembers about Pedro Pan. My parents were of Italian Spanish descent.

If anyone would like to comment on my life there feel free to email me at It had been a temporary solution, a place to live after he had been put on a plane in Havana by his mother, who told him she would rejoin him soon in the United States. By Yvonne M. Conde, A volunteer approached a little girl at Miami International Airport The Catholic Welfare Bureau and the U.S. State Department spearheaded the program and placed children in foster homes or temporary camps. High-ranking officials in the State Department and in the Attorney Though many children and parents were reunited within a few months, about 60 percent became the responsibility of the United States government. Yvonne M. Conde investigates the events and key figures surrounding the exodus, including the roles of the Catholic church and the State Department, and the extent of the CIA's involvement.

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