Operation Pedro Pan has been described as the “exodus of 14,048 Cuban children” and the “largest
child refugee movement in the Western Hemisphere.” For us, the children of Pedro Pan it is much more. It's an integral part
of who we are.
Operation Pedro Pan began in December 26 1960, and ended in October 23 of 1962, when the Cuban missile
crisis put a halt to commercial air service between Cuba/Havana and the U.S./Miami. Between December 1960 when the first two
kids arrived and October of 1962, over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban kids – the official number is 14,048 – arrived
in the U.S.
The key individual was Monsignor Bryan O.
Walsh the Director of Catholic Welfare Bureau. In January 9 of 1961 the State Department granted then Father Walsh the authority
to grant a visa waiver to any child between 6 and 16 who came to the U.
S. under the guardianship of the Diocese of Miami. Those between the ages of 16 and 18 had
to be approved by the US State Department.
The name Operation Pedro Pan was coined by Gene Miller, a reporter for the Miami Herald, and first appeared
in his article of March 9 1962 “Peter Pan Means Real Life to Some Kids”.
When Miller had approached Monsignor Walsh to inquire about the large number of kids in the camps, Monsignor asked
him to keep the details confidential and they agreed to refer to it as Pedro Pan or Operation Pedro Pan.
What is today universally called Operation Pedro Pan was made up of two components. One was the clandestine
network for getting the kids out of Cuba
– Pedro Pan. The second was the Cuban Children’s Program responsible for the care of the children after they arrived
Arriving in the U.S. the kids would either go with family or friends, or be taken to one of the
camps or residences run by the CWB.
Monsignor Walsh is recognized as the Father
of Operation Pedro Pan and is the only individual to my knowledge that had direct involvement with Pedro Pan on both sides
of the Straight.
Cuban Kids from the 60's Exodus dedicates
this web site to Monsignor Walsh, the children of Pedro Pan, and the many individuals in Florida and Cuba who risked so much
so we could be here today. But most of all to the Pedro Pan Parents. Their foresight,
courage, and love gave us, their children, the gift of freedom.