On November 12 and 13 Operation Pedro Pan Group, Inc. (OPPG) held an emotional reunion in South Florida to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Operation Pedro Pan.
The celebration started on November 12 with a tour of the camps (Kendall, Matecumbe and Florida City) attended by over 100 Pedro Pan in several buses. Some Pedro Pan had never gone back to the camp where they stayed almost 50 years ago, and the experience brought tears to many of them as they remembered the times when they arrived in the USA without their parents.
Other Pedro Pan enjoyed a great golf tournament at the Biltmore Country Club in Coral Gables.
The culmination of the celebration was on Saturday, November 13th, with a wonderful coctails reception and dinner-dance attended by over 700 guests, which was held at the Miami Beach Resort & Spa. During this reunion, many Pedro Pan that had not seen each other for many years were able to reconnect. This was a very beautiful and emotional event to celebrate this important milestone.
The invocation was delivered by Father Alberto Rodriguez, a Pedro Pan, pastor of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Miami, Florida. The transcript of the invocation can be found below.
OPPG President, Tina Gallinar, presented to Mayor Tomas P. Regalado (a Pedro Pan) the Pedro Pan Award for his excellent support of Operation Pedro Pan Group, Inc. throughout the years.
Former U.S. Senator and Pedro Pan Mel Martinez led the Pedro Pan brothers and sisters that participated on this event as they read together the Pledge of Thanksgiving, as it was done 20 years ago in front of Monsignor Bryan O Walsh. The pledge can be found below.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this reunion and the dance floor was full all night as the Pedro Pan danced with the music by Carlos Oliva y Los Sobrinos del Juez and Angel Canete’s Son y Salsa DJ Service.
The Pedro Pan family received many congratulation letters on their 50th Anniversary, and some are included below.
Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, wrote a powerful letter to the Pedro Pan on November 13, 2010, congratulating them on the 50th anniversary of their exodus.
Message to the Pedro Pans from Jim Baker’s sons
A la familia Pedro Pan
On behalf of our father, Jim Baker, we convey our congratulations to you as you celebrate the 50th anniversary of the exit from Cuba of the first Pedro Pans. Dad always marveled at the fortitude and valor of both the children and parents who became part of the Pedro Pan saga. Were he alive today he would no doubt repeat what he said at the Pedro Pan dinner
in Coral Gables you held to honor his contributions more that two decades ago. At that dinner he said, ” the real heroes of this noble history are you, the children who lived through the pains of this exodus yet persevered and triumphed.”
We regret not being able to join you at this commemoration event. Unfortunately the dates of your events and those of our Ruston Academy reunion have overlapped. But we join Dad in celebrating the notable accomplishments of the familia Pedro Pan.
Chris and Dennis Baker,
Operation Pedro Pan 50th Anniversary
By Father Alberto Rodriguez, St. Dominic Catholic Church, Miami Florida
Almighty God, as we gather to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the program which brought and received us to this country, we want to manifest our thanksgiving and praise.
In the same way you accompanied the chosen people in their desert trek and their imposed exile, you accompanied us through the many men and women who were for us, in those moments of pain and loneliness, the living signs of your love and care.
Arriving at this country as members of a generation whose dreams were stolen, a generation forced to mature early by the circumstances, a generation marked by the pain of separation from those who loved us and cared for us, a generation thrown into a new cultural and linguistic world, we encountered people, like Mgr. Walsh who knew and believed that we deserved something better and who were willing to commit their lives and efforts to empower us to achieve that better future.
Fifty years later, we re-encounter in this celebration to remember and to commit ourselves to preserve alive that bitter-sweet memory. The life and the efforts of those who opened their lives and hearts to an arriving generation, who at the moment, seemed to be without a horizon, must not be forgotten.
So as we celebrate as friends and colleagues this special date, we thank you for you love and care through our gone heroes. They were your smiling face, your supporting hand when we arrived to face an exile that branded all of us with an indelible mark. We are the Pedro Pan generation, and we are proud to present the success of our lives against those who denied us our birth right.
Continue to bless us, Lord, as you did in those first days, do not abandon us and give us the strength to continue proclaiming to the world, that we were not alone. You were and you are with us.
PLEDGE of THANKSGIVING – 50th ANNIVERSARY
We, the 14,048 children of Operation Pedro Pan, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of our exodus, give thanks to Our Lord, without whose divine providence our journey could not have occurred or succeeded.
We hereby honor and express our gratitude to all responsible for the success of our exodus.
We honor our parents, who, fearing our indoctrination and oppression by the communist regime, made the unbearably painful sacrifice of parting with us; preferring to send us away from our homeland and our family to a life of freedom, uncertain of reunification, but certain of a better future than that which awaited us. We thank them for their courage and unconditional love.
To this noble nation, the United States of America, whose compassion is unlimited, and to its people, who embraced us and cared for us, we express our gratitude and pledge allegiance. We are proud to be Americans and to serve this nation.
We honor and remember all those, both living and deceased, on both sides of the Florida Straits, whose contributions were responsible for the success of Operation Pedro Pan.
We, the children of Operation Pedro Pan, as a token of gratitude, solemnly pledge, in the closeness of our shared experience, to actively help today’s dependent children, and those who continue to arrive unaccompanied under the care of the Archdiocese of Miami and any other organization committed to providing a home, so that no child displaced from his homeland is left abandoned.
For it is in giving that we receive!
Through this pledge, we honor Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, who will forever be in our hearts.
THE CHILDREN OF OPERATION PEDRO PAN
November 13, 2010, Miami, Florida
A message from George’s daughter…
Jorge “George” Guarch, an employee of the Catholic Welfare Bureau, was responsible for receiving the unaccompanied Cuban children arriving daily at Miami’s airport. He is fondly remembered for calming the thousands of frightened children by offering candy and gum to the new arrivals. Although many children believed he was American, George was a proud native of Antilla, Oriente, Cuba, learning English while attending high school in Berea, Kentucky.
As he drove the children to the various camps and homes, he encouraged them to honor their parents by being brave and proud because they were now in the United States and should be valiant representatives of their Cuban homeland. As the years passed, and George watched the Pedro Pan children grow into strong, responsible men and women, he marveled at their resilience, and felt great pride in their strength of character.
While his work with the Catholic Welfare Bureau was his job, it was much more than just a job. Working with the children of Pedro Pan was a pivotal experience that enriched and defined the rest of his life.
In the ensuing fifty years, Pedro Pan children have honored the heartrending sacrifices of their parents by courageously forging ahead and becoming solid citizens of the United States, all the while maintaining and fostering the love of their Cuban homeland.
George would be proud!
Respectfully, Lynn Guarch-Pardo