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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Talk On Operation Pedro Pan

On Thursday, September 23, the Bay View Conference Room in Campus Center was filled with over fifty listeners attending “Operation Pedro Pan: The Cuban Revolution and the Exodus of 14,000 Unaccompanied Children” with featured speaker Maria de los Angeles Torres. Despite the controversial issues, the room had a very at-home atmosphere with chatter in English and Spanish over tasty Cuban food, sponsored by The Mauricio Gastón Institute.

Pedro Pan was a program created by the Catholic Welfare Bureau of Miami in 1960. The program provided an opportunity for parents in Cuba to send their children to Miami in order to avoid Marxist-Leninist fascism and Cuban Revolution. A direct reflection of the state of Cuba, the program boomed, and 14,000 children were brought to Miami with uncertain futures before them. This has become one of the largest child refugee movements in history, making a dramatic impact on the children and their parents, as well as other family members who remained in Cuba.

Torres was a child Cuban refugee, who entered the United States through Operation Pedro Pan. Her lecture was not only about the facts of the Catholic program, but also about her real life experiences. Overcoming all roadblocks Dr.Torres completed her Ph.D. in political science at University of Michigan in 1986, as well as being an associate professor of political science at DePaul University, Chicago, since 1995. She is a celebrated author of two books: The Lost Apple: Operation Pedro Pan (Beacon Press, 2003) and In the Land of Mirrors: Cuban Exiles Politics in the United States (University of Michigan Press, 1999).

Torres explained the results of her research to the audience using a documentary video, which included documents from Cuba and the United States. She examined Operation Pedro Pan from both a historical and personal perspective, and her presentation focused on the plight of refugee children while addressing the broader issues including use of children as political vehicles. She asserts that children involved in the program lost contact with their families, and their education was controlled not by their parents but by United States organizations.

Controversy arises, and both Operation Pedro Pan and the United States. Government denies there were any intentions to sever children’s ties to home. Agencies insist that their parents could exercise their fundamental human rights to direct the education of their children, while Dr. Torres knows differently. Many of the audience included persons who had been children refugees or whose parents came from Cuba and had been involved in the historical events.

After Torres had finished her lecture, the question-answer session was emotional and reflected the lives touched by such an enormous event in political history. As Torres expressed, the issue she discussed was very complicated and emotional especially for those who experienced it. She closed the discussion with her appreciation to the Mauricio Gaston Institute who helped provide the space to talk about such controversial matters. She praised the audience for their mutual respect in discussing this emotionally challenging issue. Torres left the floor with a smile of satisfaction that she had helped more people understand the one of the largest child refugee movements in history.