Visitors explore ‘Lost Voices of Mariel,’ an exhibit at the Monroe County Local History Room & Museum. The exhibit explores the lives of the Cuban refugees who began their journey in the U.S. at Fort McCoy in 1980 and how the refugee story impacted Monroe County.

Steve Rundio

The “Lost Voices of Mariel” Traveling Exhibit at the Monroe County Local History Room & Museum in Sparta is starting its final two weeks of display.

The exhibit explores the experience of the Cuban refugees who were brought to the Fort McCoy Refugee Resettlement Center in 1980 and how that six-month ordeal impacted Monroe County.

The exhibit opened Jan. 31 and was still on display when the museum closed in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It remains on display through Saturday, Oct. 17.

The Local History Room is open by reservation, Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 608-269-8680 to make a reservation. Admission is free.

In October 1980, the last 923 adult Cuban refugees were transferred from the Fort McCoy Refugee Resettlement Center to the refugee center in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. Afterward, what remained of the once 14,000 Cuban refugee population at Fort McCoy were 170 juveniles. These unaccompanied minors would ultimately be transferred to Wyalusing State Park in Prairie du Chien and then placed in foster homes.

A special section of the History Room website has been set up for people to share any stories they have about the time Fort McCoy served as a Cuban Refugee Resettlement Center. Visit MonroeCountyHistory.org to share stories or read those submitted by others.