There is an episode in Cuban history that not many people outside of our community are aware of .
When Castro and his cronies took power, not only was personal property at risk of being confiscated by the new communist government, but parents were going to lose their rights over their own children.
Desperate and terrified Cuban parents made the unthinkable decision to send their children out of the country rather than risk losing them to Marxist-Leninist indoctrination.
Airplane tickets and passports were clandestinely secured. With the help of the Catholic Welfare Bureau (Catholic Charities) of Miami 14,048 (!) Cuban youths were placed in foster homes and orphanages throughout the U.S during those years.
The largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere was known as Operation Pedro Pan. From December of 1960 to October of 1962 they left Cuba, a few at a time. The Cuban parents who sent their children out of the country didn't know if they would ever see their children again. Many did not. About half of them were reunited with their parents.
But if you were to talk to most Pedro Pans today, they are nothing but grateful to their parents for making this impossibly heartbreaking sacrifice.
My friend, Christina Diaz Gonzalez has taken on the topic of the Pedro Pans and has crafted an absolutely beautiful story. The book is called The Red Umbrella. It is an historical fiction novel that follows 14 year-old Lucia from her carefree life in a small town in Cuba to an unknown future, without her parents, in the heart of Nebraska.
The story strikes a personal chord with Christina, as both her parents and mother-in-law were part of Operation Pedro Pan.
Carrie and I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Christina in May at Cuba Nostalgia in Miami. (And yes, as a matter of fact, she is absolutely adorable, but that's not important right now.)
(Of course, Carrie got up close and personal with the video camera and got Christina to give us some Tiki Tiki love.)
I was so personally delighted with the book (and with Christina, herself) that I asked if I could please promote her book here on MBFCF. She graciously agreed.
Christina will be in Southern California this coming weekend.
So, readers, please get yourselves over to one of these signings. Get a copy of this beautiful book. Pick one up for a friend. It's written in an elegantly simple style and would be most appropriate for a young teen also. My Lucy is reading The Red Umbrella as I speak write.
Christina will be at:
SCBWI Annual Conference
July 28 – August 2nd
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, July 31st at 6:30 pm
695 East Colorado Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91101
Sunday, August 1st at 2pm
100 South Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91204
Please go and meet the lovely Christina and and get yourself a copy of her beautiful book. Tell her Marta sent you.
I loved this book so much that I have procured two copies of The Red Umbrella to give away.
To be entered in the drawing, please leave a comment here on this post. Answer one or both of the following questions:
- Are you personally related to or do you know any Pedro Pans?
- Is this the first time you've heard about the Pedro Pan exodus?
I'll be choosing a winner on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 11 am Pacific Time.
By the way, one of the reasons this story impacted me so much...
My brother was a Pedro Pan.
(cross-posted at Tiki Tiki Blog)