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Matecumbe High School Class Reunion- A 50 year reunion chronicle
by Daniel Arco Reyes
In the morning of Saturday June 8th, the grounds of Camp Matecumbe were visited by a crowd in excess of 200 people which included former residents of the camp, their spouses, children, grandchildren and friends as well as many other Pedro Pan kids that were housed at different facilities and their families. The large crowd included a Pedro Pan mother, Leonor Valdivia, representing the brave mothers of the 14,048 Pedro Pan children, the women that courageously chose freedom for their sons and daughters over oppression at the price of separation.
The gathering marked the Golden Anniversary (50 years) reunion of the first and only graduating class of Matecumbe High School. For this special and uplifting event several of the grads were reunited once again as they have done before. Guys travelled from different parts of the country to attend the festivities, to rekindle the friendship and brotherhood forged under the tents and on the shadows of the pine trees of the camp.
The program was initiated inside the Gran Cabana with a Thanksgivings Mass officiated by Father Sergio Garcia-Miro, one of the four former camp instructors also in attendance. Some of the members of the '63 graduating class participated in the liturgy. During the school year of 1962-63 Fr. Sergio was the instructor in charge of this group. Immediately following the mass, Carmen Valdivia, representing OPPG’s Board of Directors with the assistance of the former instructors, presented each of the grads present a certificate commemorating the historical occasion.
The attendees enjoyed a plethora of hors d'oeuvres before a delicious paella was served to everyone's delight.
Back row left to right: Leandro Alvarez (Hialeah, Fl), Mario Naranjo (North Carolina), Roberto Balbis (West Palm Beach, Fl), Ernesto Perdomo (New Jersey), Angel Carballo (Puerto Rico), Jesus Esteban Ramil (Miami,Fl), Luis Lopez (Miami, Fl), Porfirio Gramatges (Marco Island, Fl) , Daniel Arco (Texas) and Wilfredo Braceras (Miami, Fl). Front row left to right: Rolando Crespo (Miami, Fl) and Arturo Lara (Pennsylvania).
In the evening hours the group of graduates got together at the home of one of their classmate to continue visiting with each other in a more intimate environment, to recount events, to tell anecdotes, to remember their teachers and their classmates absent from this reunion, to relive their days in camp and to catch up with the happenings of each other. While the room was filled with laughter, joy and good times the group of wives (which connected equally as well as the guys) marveled at the strong bond these men have been able to create and maintain despite the passing of five decades. Though they are scattered throughout the country they have the ability to reconnect instantaneously with each other and carry on as if they have never been separated from each other for any period of time. As so aptly was said several times during the reunion "fifty years have gone by and nothing has changed"