Cuban exiles share stories in database

It's a baby dress, worn long ago by a 2-year-old to take a life-changing flight into exile in Miami.

Today, 39 years later, Elsa Lopez proudly holds up the white dress – the one she wore when her mother carried her on-board a 1969 Cuban Freedom Flight to a new life in the United States.

To Lopez, who has treasured the dress for years, it has until now been the only tangible proof of her traumatic move.

"Now there is the database which I can show my children," said Lopez, 41, of West Kendall, who is an event coordinator for the United Teachers of Dade.

Lopez is referring to the recently launched Miami Herald Cuban Freedom Flights Database – a one-of-a-kind permanent list of the names of the 265,000 Cubans who came to the United States from 1965 to 1973 on those flights to escape Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Since The Miami Herald unveiled the project with an article and a special event last week at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, the database – available at – has been visited by thousands of Cuban exiles in South Florida and across the country searching for their names and those of loved ones.

Hundreds more have e-mailed corrections to the list, memories and photos of their final day in Cuba and early experiences in the United States. They have also expressed their appreciation for the creation of the database.

"Our own Ellis Island registry; how wonderful," wrote one woman.

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