Operation Pedro Pan

Monica Magnan

They all carry something.
The girl seated next to him
has a holy card with Christ pointing
to a gash in His heart, redder than a mango.
His mother has given him a loaf of bread
with the imprint of a palm frond baked
into the crust like a fossil.

From the airplane’s window, he finds her
sealed to the glass pane of the observatory—
her mouth opening and closing.
He remembers yesterday, catching
the silver fish in his hands, its body
all shuddering muscle, and his mother—
swimming past the waves and the buoys,
passengers shouting she’d gone too far.

In America, he’ll have roller skates
and a pond where his breadcrumbs
bring fish up from deep water,
fish singed orange like the sweet potatoes
he’ll eat. And his letters will be plentiful,
rolled inside Coca-Cola bottles,
an armada of green glass pushed
across the ocean to her.


  1. Laura says

    Great poem, really emotional.
    I’m reading about Operation Pedro Pan at the moment – it was so sad that all those children were torn apart from their families.
    Monica, are you a Pedro Pan?

  2. Jose says

    We weren’t torn apart from our families. Our families in order to save us from the claws communism made the heart-wrenching decision of sending us to Miami. The separation was expected to last at most a year, the time Cubans expected it would take for the United States to topple the pro-Soviet Castro regime. However, it didn’t work out that way, as everyone knows. Ultimately, 96% of all Pedro Pans were reunited with their parents and siblings on US soil thanks to the Freedom Flights that were instituted by the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration and which lasted from 1965 to 1973. The Memorandum of Understanding signed by both countries gave boarding priority to parents and siblings of unaccompanied Cuban refugee children in the United States, most of whom were Pedro Pan children. A total of 260,561 Cubans found freedom in the United States thanks to the flights. I personally was reunited with my father and sister within 8 months of my arrival in Miami. Because the Castro government was intent on dividing middle class families, it took another 2 years for my mother to join us in the United States. She flew to Mexico City pretending to be a tourist and once there she crossed illegally the Rio Grande at the US-Mexico border in Brownsville Texas, where she then surrendered to US immigration authorities and asked for political asylum. If anyone has torn the Cuban family apart in the last 55 years, it has been the Castro regime with its totalitarian communist policies. Thanks, Monica, for the poem.