From late 1960 until the October 1962 missile crisis, 14,048 unaccompanied Cuban children left their homeland, the small island suddenly at the center of the Cold War struggle. Their parents, unable to obtain visas to leave Cuba, believed a short separation would be preferable to subjecting their offspring to Castro's totalitarian Marxist state. For the children, the exodus began a prolonged and tragic ordeal -- some didn't see their parents again for years: a few never did. Until now, this chapter of the Cuban Revolution has been relatively obscure. Initially the result of an effort by James Baker, headmaster of an American school in Cuba who worked closely with the anti-Castro underground, Pedro Pan quickly came to involve the Catholic Church in Miami and, in particular, Father Bryan Walsh, who established the Cuban Children's Program, the nationwide organization that cared for those children without relatives or friends in the United States -- almost half of the entire group. The latter program, in effect until 1981, was the first to allot federal money to private agencies for child care, an action with far-reaching repercussions for U.S. social policy.
Victor Andres Triay, whose parents left Cuba in 1960 for exile in the United States, is assistant professor of history at Middlesex Community College, Middletown, Connecticut. He grew up in Miami, Florida.