Peter Pan – a Story of Never Again in Cuba

By Ibis Frade

peter panThe Havana Reporter – Loneliness, uncertainty, fear and new sources of hope are revealed through the personal accounts compiled in the new book “Operación Peter Pan, cerrando el círculo en Cuba” (Operation Peter Pan, closing the circle in Cuba), presented here by one of its authors, renowned U.S. film-maker Estela Bravo.

This work features stories related to the Cuban children whose parents sent them to the United States in the early 1960s, following rumors that they would lose their parental rights, said Eusebio Leal, the historian of Havana City.

In early 1960, more than 14,000 children from this country traveled alone to the United States. Some had good fortune, others suffered abuse, therefore presenting a book such as this is no easy task, he added.

Both the documentary and the book by Estela and her husband Ernesto feature evidence of the direct involvement by the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Leal said.

According to Cuban-American businessman Alex López, one of the children included in the so-called “Operation Peter Pan,” it was one of the first terrorist acts carried out by the CIA against the Cuban revolution.

To allegedly “save me from Communism”, my parents put me on a plane where I spent the most horrible 45 minutes of my life. I left a house with a marble floor and was sent to a rural camp where I suffered abuse. Luckily I (eventually) found a good American family, López recalled.

Silvia Wilhelm, sent by her parents to the U.S. when she was a girl, now chairs the Cuban Bridges organization, which works for relations between both countries based on understanding and respect.

“Returning to Cuba changed my life and then, for many years, I worked in Washington trying to bring about a change in the failed, counterproductive and cruel policy against this nation,” she said.

“Operación Peter Pan, closing the circle in Cuba,” published by Casa de las Américas, is based on testimonies from the documentary produced by Estela and Ernesto, who first dealt with this issue in 1979, when they released “Los que se fueron ” (Those Who Left).

Edited by Olga Rosa Gómez, the book has a foreword written by Wayne S. Smith, Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba from 1979 to 1982.