Polita Grau

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Polita Grau (born Maria Leopoldina Grau-Alsina on 19 November 1915 in Havana, Cuba - 22 March 2000 in Miami, Florida) was a First Lady of Cuba, a Cuban political prisoner, and the "godmother" of Operation Peter Pan, a program to help children leave Cuba.

Family life[edit]

Grau was the daughter of Paulina Alsina and Francisco Grau-San Martin. Her siblings were Paulina Grau-Alsina, Francisco Grau-Alsina (a Senator of Cuba), and Ramon Grau-Alsina (a Representative of Cuba). Her uncle, Ramon Grau-San Martin, was President of Cuba from 1933–1934 and again from 1944-1948. She served as first lady of Cuba during her uncle’s presidencies. She was married twice, first to Roberto Lago-Pereda and then in 1939 to Jose Aguero-Cairo. She had two children, Ramon Francisco and Hilda Maria Aguero-Grau, and six grandchildren.


Grau was involved in politics from her adolescence and spent four separate periods in exile. She opposed the Machado regime and the Batista regimes. She later supported the Cuban Revolution, but then opposed the Castro regime.

In 1961, Grau and her brother Ramon, along with Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh of the Archdiocese of Miami, started Operation Peter Pan. From 1961-1965, they helped more than 14,000 children leave Cuba without their parents, and later assisted with giving out 28,000 visas to those children's parents.

In 1965, Grau and her brother Ramon were accused of being CIA spies because of their work in Operation Peter Pan. She was also accused of involvement in a plot to poison Castro with a milkshake. They were tried, and each was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Grau was released after serving 14 years in prison, and her brother Ramon was released after serving 21 years. She was released during the wider release of political prisoners in 1978, thanks to the assistance of Bernardo Benes.

She died at the Villa Maria Nursing Center located on the grounds of Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida, of congestive heart disease.

In 2008, the City of Miami named a street after her: "Ramon and Polita Grau-Alsina Avenue".


  • The New York Times, Polita Grau, 84; Headed Effort On Behalf of Cuban Children by Wolfgang Saxon; March 25, 2000
  • Levine, Robert M. & Asis, Moises; Cuban Miami, (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000), pp. 22, 24-27.

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