Yesterday marked the 49th anniversary of the start of Operación Pedro Pan. Fearful of the impact of the 1959 Cuban Revolution on their children, more than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children were sent by their parents to the United States (most of them to Miami), taking advantage of visa waivers. The flights began Dec. 26, 1960 and ended 18 months later. The U.S. government funded the effort and supplied the children’s waivers, and the Roman Catholic church promised to care for them. The operation was designed to transport the children of parents who opposed the revolutionary government, and was later expanded to include children of parents concerned by rumors that their children would be shipped to Soviet work camps. With the help of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami and Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, the children were placed with friends, relatives and group homes in 35 states until they could be reunited with their parents. Parties, books and documentaries are planned for the 50th anniversary next year.
Carlos Eire describes his experiences in Operation Peter Pan in his memoir Waiting for Snow in Havana.