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Escape From Havana

Between 1960 and 1962, more than 14,000 Cuban children were secretly flown to the United States to escape Fidel Castro's regime. Parents said goodbye to their children not knowing if they would ever see them again. The airlift over the Florida Straits became known as Operation Peter Pan or Operación Pedro Pan in Spanish.

It was supposed to be a democratic revolution when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. But Castro soon turned to communism and dictatorship. Rumors began to spread among the elites and middle class that Castro would take their children away. Throughout the island, parents panicked. Then, the U.S. offered a way out: it would conduct a secret airlift of Cuban children and bring them to America — without their parents. It was an unbearable choice between raising their children in the oppression of Castro’s Cuba, or setting them free to live in the land of freedom, never knowing if they would reunite.

In the following pictures, we tell the story of some of the individuals — the Pedro Pans — who struggled, adapted and even prevailed under incredibly difficult circumstances.

By Constance Parten
Posted 25 May, 2010