14,000 Children & 90 Miles to Miami: The Role of the Catholic Church in Operation Pedro Pan
Operation Pedro Pan was an international clandestine operation, organized by the Archdiocese of Miami, that lasted from 1960 to 1962. The operation facilitated the transfer of over 14,000 refugee children from the families in Cuba to the United States, the to-date largest exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere. Once in the United States, many children were united with relatives or otherwise taken care of by the Catholic Welfare Bureau. The bureau’s director, Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, was responsible for coordinating State Department officials, the Office of the President, numerous dioceses and Archdioceses around the country and the Caribbean, and contacts in Cuba, in order to make the operation possible. This project focused on analyzing these complex diplomatic relationships which resulted in the operation’s resounding success. Ultimately, many Pedro Pan’ers (over 90%) were reunited with their parents when they came to the United States after 1962. Interviews with individuals such as Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami revealed important details such as the Kennedy administration’s initial reluctance towards continuing to fund the operation. Through my research poster and video presentation, I hope to provide a brief yet substantive overview of Operation Pedro Pan’s history and its overall diplomatic significance. The operation is evidence of the great humanitarian achievements that are possible when independent international organizations, such as the Catholic Church, collaborate and receive support from friendly governments.