The Freedom Tower is a National Historic Landmark and also called the “Ellis Island of the South” for the role between 1962 and 1974 in the Cuban refugees crisis, when Cuban refugees sought political asylum from the regime of Fidel Castro.
The construction on the tower began on June 11, 1924. It was first used as a newspaper headquarter and printing facility. The Miami News utilized the building until it moved to a new facility in 1957. The building sat unused until the government leased it in 1962 to assist the Cuban refugees.
The building is 17 stories tall and contains over 82,000 square feet of space. The tower is based on the design of the Giralda tower of the Cathedral of Seville.
When Fidel Castro took over 1959 and started ridding the island of anyone who did not support his ideologies, many Cubans fled to the United States. By end of 1960 approx. 40,000 Cubans had fled to the states. In the following years thousands more fled to the states and many arrived via Pan American World Airways “Freedom Flights”. Pan American World Airways flew two flights per day, five days a week from Varadero Airport, east of Havana, to Miami.
The Freedom Tower, known by the Cubans as “El Refugio” was a major service facility for the refugees. The Tower, which housed the Cuban Assistance Center, provided in-processing services, basic medical and dental services, relief aids for those starting a new life without anything and records on relatives already in the U.S.
By 1974, the U.S. government began phasing out the program and closed
the Cuban Assistance Center in the same year. Until then, about 650,000 Cuban refugees entered the United States from 1959 until 1974 and the Federal Government spent about $957 million dollars on the Cuban Refugee Program.
Bought and sold many times in the coming years after 1974, the Pedro Martin family donated the building to the Miami Dade College.
Today, the Freedom Tower serves the college as its premier exhibition space and gallery. Admission to the exhibition space on the 2nd floor of the building is free and open to the public. There are plans to use the Freedom Tower as the Cuban-American Historical Museum in the future.
For me it’s sometimes weird what is considered art. The 2nd floor features some weird thins as well, which I wouldn’t consider art. Like the room with the skylight. It has big areas which consist of 81 rectangular fields. At every area there is one more rectangular field highlighted different and it keeps on counting. This “piece” of art takes the whole room but I don’t really see the “art” part of this exhibition. But hey, everyone has a different taste.
I liked the “New World Mural” on the mezzanine level of the freedom tower. This is for me real art. Unfortunately you can only view it from a weird angle. Most of the mezzanine level is blocked off.
The mural was restored during the 1987 restoration of the freedom tower and it shows Ponce de Leon and Tequesta chief before the New World.