From Cuba with Love

The Story of a Peter Pan Kid


National Association for Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC)

Fund for the Arts (NFA) 2023 Grant Award (Click to Read)


, Operation Peter Pan was born of fear and the human instinct to protect children.


Miami Herald

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The timing is perfect for what is happening here in America.

It brings tears to your eyes and pride to your heart to see someone from a challenging situation able to turn their lives into a success story.  
Jimmy Chapel, Singer and Entertainer

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Sent to the United States on January 6, 1961 by his parents at the age of 9, Manuel had the good fortune to at least get brought out to the United States by his aunt. Nevertheless, in the intervening years before his mother, sister, and grandmother were able to get out and come to the United States his father had passed away.  His early years here were difficult ones as his aunt’s brother was very opposed to encouraging Manuel’s interest in the arts and Manuel was forced to go out to a barn to practice and study violin.  He progressed quickly and went to the university at the age of 16 on a full scholarship.  By the time he was 21 he had earned a Ph.D. from NYU and become a college professor.  He earned his living as a symphony orchestra conductor and became recognized for his work with youth orchestras.  But, his love of acting as a child never left him and he sought out acting opportunities and played roles such as that of the King in Once Upon a Mattress, while serving as Dean of Arts and Humanities at Oklahoma Community College. When immigrant children were being separated from their parents during the Trump years, Manuel felt compelled to tell “his” story in support of those children. With the current exodus and the separation of families in Ukraine, this recurring immigrant theme is as poignant and relevant today is it was in 1961. In addition, Manuel’s estrangement from his parents was also a direct result of Russia’s influence on Cuba during the 1960’s. The show, The Story of a Peter Pan Kid, had its premiere in October of 2019 in a sold out showcase in Orlando which got a standing ovation and the show was immediately booked the next morning. With an expansive record of accomplishments, including winning the Mary Beth Treen Award from South Arts, and 2 Fulbright Scholar Appointments, Manuel’s services and expertise as a performing artist, administrator and educator have been utilized by organizations for some 40 years in the United States, Austria, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Israel, Chile, Columbia, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina, Israel, and the Far East.

See Video Below

Manuel and Grandmother

Operation “Peter Pan” was a mass exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to the US between 1960 and 1962. The kids got letters from their parents in Cuba but lived for years without their parents and many of them went on to accomplish great things.  Father Bryan O. Walsh of the Catholic Welfare Bureau created the program to provide air transportation to the United States for Cuban children and then care for them. This is the story of one such “kid” and what it was like to come to America and navigate the world of the performing arts.  There are poignant, tearful, terrifying, and comical peaks and valleys.  Audiences love to see and hear  Dr. Manuel Prestamo tell his story of a Peter Pan Kid.   This is a timely theater piece of real drama that is relevant to our current world of massive migration and refugees fleeing to other countries.  Dr. Prestamo is a veteran performing artist with various performances all over the world.  The initial showcase performance of this work had the audience crying, laughing, and got a standing ovation, which is practically unheard of for such events. The show started getting booked the very next morning!