Prologue - Fly, Fly Away

September 14, 1963

Today is my fifteenth birthday. In Cuba, my native country, the Quinceañera is a huge celebration for young women turning fifteen as they become adults. It is both an exciting social event, and is somewhat equivalent to a “Debutante Ball.”          

And as I become an adult in the United States, the birthday gift I’m giving myself is the celebration of my freedom. I will also celebrate by sharing my story with you. This story is taken from my diary, which I started writing when I was twelve and leaving Cuba. It has become a part of an important milestone in American and Cuban history. My brother Diego and I were swept up in the Western Hemisphere’s largest ever exodus of unaccompanied children. The responsibility we bore broke many spirits and almost destroyed our family. But freedom and a brighter future are worth fighting for.

This epic story began unfolding when I was twelve, and Diego only seven. But I’m telling it now through a fifteen-year-old’s voice, because I could not have written it earlier. Now I share it, with all the courage, discipline and strength I received from my family. With their encouragement I feel ready to open my heart and soul to unveil the story of two Cuban children who joined a mass movement of Pedro Pan children in response to Cuba’s social upheaval.

The story is not only about us. It’s also a love story involving our parents, because so many Pedro Pan parents had to make the heart-wrenching decision to send their beloved children to the United States without them. And it’s a story of survival, as innocent children were forced to learn how to live without surrendering their culture and traditions.

I have finally found a peaceful place, where I can enjoy my memories and build a better future, filled with hope, faith and love.



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