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Rothe, E.M. (2006). News from the Field. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 34(3):535-536.
(2006). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 34(3):535-536
News from the Field
Recorded by Eugenio M. Rothe, M.D.
Edited by: Matthew Tolchin, M.D.
Unaccompanied Cuban Refugee Children: A Psychoanalytic Perspective
At the Omni Colonnade Hotel in Miami on Saturday, February 4, 2006, the Florida Psychoanalytic Society hosted the conference, “Trauma, Resilience and Growth: The Pedro Pan Experience.”
This conference addressed a forgotten episode of the Cold War known as “Operation Pedro Pan.” In 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and in an attempt to increase police control over the population on the island, the communist government of Cuba passed a decree taking the custody of all Cuban children away from their parents and making the children “wards of the state.”
This created widespread panic, especially among parents who had opposed the communist takeover. They feared that reprisals against them would come in the form of forced conscription of their children into the military or that their children would be sent away to schools in the Soviet Union where they would be indoctrinated into communism. The American Embassy in Havana, the Catholic Church, and the principals of several of Cuba's private schools organized an operation by which unaccompanied Cuban children (but not their parents) could obtain rapid exit visas into the United States. The plan called for a later reuniting with their parents in American territory. Upon arrival, the children were placed in refugee camps in South Florida run by the Catholic Church, or were sent to foster homes throughout the United States. As a result of the political complications of the Cold War, many of these children were unable to reunite with their parents until many years later; others, never again.
The conference aimed at examining the pain and resiliency of these children, many of whom are currently in their early and mid-fifties, seen through the focus of a psychoanalytic perspective. Of note is that many survivors of the “Pedro Pan Operation” have been enormously successful in the United States and that they are overrepresented in the mental health professions.
The conference and was extremely well attended. The first speaker, Jorge Casariego, M.D.,
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