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Series XXII: Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba, 1979-2013, inclusive

Scope and Content Note

This 57-minute documentary Operation Peter Pan (Operación Peter Pan) was released in 2011 and tells the story of the mass migration of Cuban minors to the United States. It uses footage from the National Archives and features interviews with individuals who traveled to the United States in Operation Peter Pan. The film primarily centers on a group of five who traveled back to Cuba for the first time after almost fifty years. Estela Bravo follows them as they explore their past and help bridge the emotional and political divides between the United States and Cuba.

This series contains footage of interviews with select individuals featured in the documentary, a selection of background footage, and a copy of the book Operation Peter Pan based on the documentary.

Historical/Biographical Note

In 1960, rumors circulated Cuba that the new revolutionary government planned to suspend parental authority and enroll the children in military schools or send them to Russia for Communist indoctrination. In the wake of the rumors, Cuban parents sent as many as 14,000 unaccompanied children on flights out of Cuba between 1960 and 1962. The United States government facilitated this mass exodus of Cuban children, which became popularly known as Operation Peter Pan, through a clandestine program that waived the children's visa requirements and provided several million dollars to the Miami Catholic Welfare Bureau to care for the children. Many parents expected to be reunited with their children after what they believed would be the swift fall communist government. Following the Bay of Pigs invasions in 1962, however, US-Cuba relations deteriorated, and permanently separated many parents and children. Some children were able to connect with family members in the United States, but approximately 7000 were moved into long-term orphanages or foster care.

Estela Bravo's documentary Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba about the experience of these children was selected as Best Documentary Feature at the 2011 Havana Film Festival in New York. It also won First Prize at the Festival Internacional de Cine Politico, Buenos Aires; Best Documentary at the 7th Human Rights International Festival in Bolivia; and the Coral Award at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema.

Operación Peter Pan: Book Based on the Documentary by Estela Bravo, 2013, inclusive

Box: 72, Folder: 25 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)

Fonseca, L.: Interview about Operation Peter Pan and Father Brian O. Walsh, undated

Box: 97, DVD: ref736 (Material Type: Moving Images)

Language of Materials

This video is in Spanish.

Scope and Contents

The video begins with black and white footage of an interview with two men. This portion is barely audible and audio and video quality is poor throughout. The majority of the video focuses on footage of father Brian O. Walsh who facilitated the transportation of Cuban children to the United States during Operation Peter Pan. A young man watches the footage and describes what his experience as one of the Peter Pan children and his memories of his life in the United States. He discusses traveling to the U.S. at the age of 12 and later deciding to return to Cuba. He explains that he eventually returned to Cuba in 1971, but that the process was difficult.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Original Format: Umatic. Duration: 00:21:49.

Mendieta, Ana: Interview also "Juan Monge and Zenon", circa 2010, inclusive

Box: 95, DVD: ref730 (Material Type: Moving Images)

Historical/Biographical Note

Ana Mendieta (1948 – 1985) was a Cuban American performance artist, sculptor, painter and video artist. Born in Havana, Mendieta and her sister were sent to the United States as a part of Operation Peter Pan in 1961. Their first weeks were spent in refugee camps before moving to several institutions and foster homes in Iowa. They were eventually reunited with their mother in 1966 and their father in 1979.

Mendieta, Ana: Interview "and Zenon and Monge", circa 2010, inclusive

Box: 95, DVD: ref733 (Material Type: Moving Images)

Walsh, Bryan O.: Interview, undated

Box: 40, Cassette: ref744 (Material Type: video)

Historical/Biographical Note

Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh (1930-2001) was born in Ireland, moved to the United States and was ordained for the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida in 1954. He directed the Cuban Children's Program, which brought 14,000 unaccompanied children from Cuba to the United States.

Walsh, Bryan O.: Interview, circa 1979, inclusive

Box: 97, DVD: ref741 (Material Type: Moving Images)

Language of Materials

This interview is in Spanish.

Scope and Contents

This video features and interview with Father Bryan O. Walsh. Walsh begins by discussing the children currently in the care of his Catholic organization in Miami. At the time of the interview Walsh explained that he was caring for 25 children between the ages of 14 and 18. He describes the motivation of many Cuban parents who decided to send their children to the United States in the early 1960s, explaining that many feared their children would be sent to Russia for communist indoctrination. He also discusses his organization's role in clandestine efforts to send Cuban children the US, and explains that parents expected Castro would be overthrown and their children would quickly return. He later discusses children who had a difficult time adjusting to life in the US, and the Miami-based youth organization the Antonio Maceo Brigade, which was outspoken in its support of the Cuban government.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Original Format: Umatic. Duration: 00:20:59.

Interview with girl (Nina), Casa de las Americas, 1979, inclusive

Box: 40, Cassette: ref734 (Material Type: video)

Start of Interview with Emilio Cueto, undated

Box: 20, Cassette: ref537 (Material Type: video)

Language of Materials

This video is in Spanish.

Scope and Content Note

This video begins with Emilio Cueto singing a song about wishing to return to his homeland. He then explains how he composed it shortly after leaving Cuba during a time when he missed his family and his country.

Biographical Note

Emilio Cueto is a lawyer, author, pianist, and collector of Cuban cultural artifacts. Born in Cuba, he came to the United States as one of the Operation Peter Pan children.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Original Format: Betacam. Duration: 00:13:01.

"Peter Pan"

Box: 19, U-matic: ref632 (Material Type: video)

"Camp Photos, Walsh", undated

Box: 38, Cassette: ref739 (Material Type: video)

"Part of 'Lost Apple'", undated

Box: 38, Cassette: ref742 (Material Type: video)

"Walsh, Lost Apple, Peter Pan", undated

Box: 38, Cassette: ref801 (Material Type: video)
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012