Página 12 is one of
the most important newspapers in Argentina and
Sandra Russo is a well-known journalist. Here is
an English translation.
Ver nota en
Contratapa | Sábado, 21 de septiembre de 2013
Operación Peter Pan / Operation Peter Pan
[English translation by Progreso Weekly]
That's the title of
the documentary that Estela Bravo premiered in
2010, which, in homage to the Cuban-American
filmmaker, was shown at the recent Unasur Cinema
Festival, along with another documentary about
the rescued grandchildren in Argentina, "Who Am
Truth is, I attended the screening out of the
respect I have for Estela Bravo, but my interest
was focused on the documentary on Argentina.
Yet, once the story of the Pedro Pan children
unfolded on the screen, the incredible, the
undisclosed, the sadistic and at the same time
deeply lovable story of the psy-ops war that the
CIA waged between 1960 and 1962, I was touched
so deeply that I was prompted to retell the
story here, because I think that Bravo works to
deepen and multiply the conscience of some
things that happen worldwide.
I had no idea of what Operation Peter Pan had
been, so I was assaulted by the images of the
camps for children in Miami and other U.S.
cities, created to house the more than 14,000
children, ages 2 to 16, who were sent out of
Cuba by their parents to save them from the
First they sent the boys 10 and older from
wealthy families. Then, the younger children
from the petty bourgeoisie; later the littlest
girls and the youngest boys. The scenes at the
airport are heart-rending: the parents waving
their hands, weeping behind a glass partition;
the children, desolate as they board the
American Airlines planes. Those parents who let
go of their children, in many cases never to see
them again, had been deceived.
That was my first impact, an awful shock. I had
gone to see a documentary on how the Argentine
dictatorship split thousands of families and
appropriated the identity of hundreds of
children, and was looking at a precedent that
how – before the social networks existed, before
the global concentration of the communications
media –a monstruous lie was implemented that
split thousands of other families, who, wishing
to protect the children, turned them over to
orphanages in the United States. But they were
trying to protect them from something that never
In complicity with the Miami Roman Catholic
Church, the CIA falsified, printed, distributed
and publicized an alleged law by the new Cuban
government whereby the government would strip
the parents from the rights to their own
whom they would send to the Soviet Union to do
forced labor. When people talk about
psychological warfare, this is what they refer
to. Outrageous deceit. Fifty years later, it is
obvious that this cock-and-bull story was
intended to create a communist specter that eats
children alive, plus spread other horror tales.
In 1960, however, the parents of more than
14,000 Cuban children fell for it.
The embassy of the United States in Havana
issued ad hoc visas for children under 16 but
not for their parents. The children, each
carrying a suitcase, were sent in packed
airliners to an uncertain fate in crowded camps
for delivery to
families that concealed their origin. Later they
were separated, mixed, submerged in a tale of
confusion where they all felt like abandoned
Thirty years after Operation Peter Pan, one of
the girls, Elly Chovel, decided to track down
other Pedro Pan children because she felt the
urgent need to clear up the life they had led,
marked by the lie that had been foisted on their
country of birth.
Chovel managed to contact about 2,000 of those
poor children, by then men and women with U.S.
lives, all of whom bore the open wound inflicted
on them at an early age. Many of them had been
abused, both in the orphanages and reform
schools and in the homes of foster parents.
Estela Bravo refers frequently to Elly Chovel,
whose story and voice – sweet yet forceful –
runs through the documentary. Elly's dream was
to return to Cuba and close the circle of her
life but that dream was not to be. She died in
Bravo's documentary covers the return trip made
by five former Pedro Pans, now middle-age men
and women, in 2009.
"I left Cuba, but Cuba never left me," says
Candi Sosa, a singer. The images of Candi
singing as a child in a camp to build up
courage, contrasted with film of the adult Candi,
a woman with the same strong voice, singing the
represents the vital, latent and powerful wish
conveyed by the documentary: tie the loose ends,
find the missing links, unravel everyone's
melancholy, and be healed.
Chovel was a woman who hated no one. She was 14
when she was sent to Miami and kept more
memories than others who had been sent at
earlier ages. Memories of Cuba. She loved Cuba.
The five Pedro Pans who returned to the island
in 2009 shared that spirit. Something inside
them had not been bent. They retained their love
for the sounds of Cuba, its flavors, its
language, what each one calls "the homeland."
The five tell their stories to the pioneers of
La Colmenita, during a meeting in the children's
classroom. The children look with pity, with
tear-filled eyes, with compassion at those five
"gringo-looking" adults who tell them how
different their childhood was.
In interviews, separately or in a group, they
narrate scenes that they've never forgotten. The
silence in the camps at night. The children's
voices shouting "daddy" or "mommy." Once the
imaginary monster that chased and captured them
was defeated, the documentary starts telling
about political cruelty in its starkest form,
but as it goes on it starts to talk of love. And
the topic of love stays with you long after you
leave the cinema.
(From the Argentine
newspaper Pagina 12)