Children who left Cuba over 50 years ago reunited in Jacksonville
By Joe Daraskevich Sat, Mar 21, 2015 @ 10:47 pm
When Oscar Candelaria got on a plane in Cuba in 1962 he thought he was
on his way to see his sister who had already moved to the United States.
The plane landed in Miami and the 8-year-old boy's sister was nowhere to
He said his parents couldn't say too much about where he was going or
what he could expect because it was a time of change in Cuba.
He was one of over 14,000 children who were sent by their parents from
Cuba to the United States from 1960 to 1962.
Over 50 years later, he was a part of a group of people who were
involved in "Operation Pedro Pan," who gathered Saturday night at the
University Club of Jacksonville on the 27th floor of the Riverplace Tower.
Candelaria was eventually reunited with his sister in Chicago, although
the two weren't able to live in the same house because the family she
was with already had 12 children. Their parents moved to the country two
years later and the family was reunited at last.
But the stories of the people involved in "Operation Pedro Pan" are all
"I was Cinderella," said Nancy Mudry.
She said her parents told her she was going to America to live with a
loving family in Miami.
When she got to the family, it turned out the woman responsible was a
Her stepsisters stole her clothes and her stepmother put a lock on the
rotary phone so she couldn't get in touch with anyone to explain the
"The mailman saved me," Mudry said.
She spoke to the man through the mail slot in the front door and he
helped her send letters to her best friend Maria in Havana.
Maria obtained a visa, flew to Miami and the two friends were reunited
at the airport.
They returned to the house, packed a bag and left, Mudry said. They
spent three days sleeping in a park in downtown Miami before both
eventually found work and parted ways.
The Catholic Welfare Bureau worked with the United States to coordinate
transportation for the children to move from Cuba to Miami.
The children of all ages were scattered throughout the country after
Some grew up with relatives, others grew up in group homes or with
foster families, but none of them knew if they would ever see their
Candelaria, 61, now lives in Gainesville and is part of the Million
Bibles for Cuba Project.
Mudry, 71, moved to New York and has been married to her husband for
over 40 years.
She was 14 when she came to the country and now she's about to retire
from a job in the Florida school system.
They both shared their stories over dinner with fellow "Pedro Pans" in
Jacksonville, looking out over the skyline.
Far from where they were born, but in the place their parents wanted
them to be.
Joe Daraskevich: (904) 359-4308
Source: Children who left Cuba over 50 years ago reunited in
Jacksonville Saturday night | jacksonville.com -
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Children who left Cuba over 50 years ago reunited in Jacksonville Saturday night
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