Middle daughter woke me at 2:00am with a persistent cough. We cured the cough, but not my excitement about interviewing the last American orphan in Holy Family Orphanage in Marquette. I tossed and turned until 3:53am when I finally gave up and parked myself at my desk to prepare for the interview and do some more research. I found a very important document: Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh’s paper Cuban Refugee Children published in 1971 in the Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs. Monsignor Walsh (deceased) was the point person for the Pedro Pan mission. The document provides his notes, impressions, concerns, and pride at what the mission accomplished for children suffering from “Communist indoctrination and propaganda.” While his is only one perception of the mission, it is an important one. More later…
I’m embarking on a new writing adventure and hope to bring you along with me on this one. I’ll chronicle the progress I make on a historical fiction middle grade chapter book I’m writing about Operation Pedro Pan. In case you haven’t heard about this part of American and Cuban history (I hadn’t until 3 months ago), here is a brief synopsis: when Castro took over Cuba in 1959, he quickly began to change the Cuban way of life to mirror Communist ideals. For instance, he banned religion in a predominately Catholic culture, the government took over the schools (private and public), and he encouraged sending children to work camps in Russia to learn about Communism.
A headmaster of an American academy in Cuba worked with an American priest to obtain exit visas and fly Cuban children to the US where they would be housed by foster families and orphanages until their parents could join them or the situation improved in Cuba. Between 1960 and 1963, 14,008 unaccompanied Cuban children came to the US. They were dubbed “Pedro Pan” (Peter Pan) children by a news reporter. Only 50% of the children were met by families at the airport in Miami. 10% never reunited with their families again.
Some of the Cuban children came to an orphanage in Marquette where I live. I found out about this because I was researching our orphanage for a potential story. I’ve made contact with the last American orphan to live in the orphanage (which was transitioned to an administrative support building in the mid-60’s) who is still friends with some of the Cuban boys with which he made friends. I’m excited to meet with him tomorrow. I hope to complete the primary and secondary research and begin writing soon.
You might have heard references to Operation Pedro Pan in relation to the Haitian orphans. Catholic social services in Miami offered to relocate Haitian orphans using the OPP model. However, the Haitian government decided they did not want to pursue this fearing it would be too traumatic for orphans to leave their country.
If you have information about Operation Pedro Pan, Holy Family Orphanage in Marquette, MI, or any other related topics of interest to this project, please contact me. Thank you!
“Writing: you need to do it to feel good about yourself even though doing it almost never makes you feel good about yourself.”
—- Jim Shepard
I’ve been working on a new title for Lizzy and the Twisted Sisters because it is too boring for such a wild ride of a story. Send me your ideas within 7 days (November 24) and the winner will receive a free manuscript critique by (insert drum roll…..) ME (you thought I was going to say some really famous editor or agent, dincha?). Really, though, who doesn’t like a fresh set of eyes on a new manuscript? So, send me your title ideas. You can read about the story if you click on “Manuscripts” above. Now get crackin’!