Five-year-old Elián González was the lone survivor of an accident that killed his mother and several other adults on Thanksgiving Day, 1999, while families across the United States were enjoying lavish feasts and cozy homes.
Elián was rescued by fishermen, taken to a hospital, and eventually reunited with his mother’s American relatives.
Family members of Elián were adamant about keeping him in the country his mother had clearly decided was worth the dangers of the journey. The father, however, was still in Cuba, so the Cuban government wrote to the United States asking for the boy’s return.
Juan, Elián’s father, escalated his claim to his son by filing a complaint with the United Nations. After several days of deliberation, the federal government decided to defer to the state of Florida, and the boy’s family in Miami applied for political asylum. In January of that year (2000), it was decided that Elián would go live with his Cuban father.
The 5-year-old was taken from his Florida home by federal agents in April 2000 and returned to his father. The photos of the terrified kid went viral.
In June 2000, Elián and Juan returned to Cuba.
Elián moved back in with his father, stepmother, and three brothers after returning to Cuba. He enrolled in school and began training in karate, and his family eventually became close with Cuba’s revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro. Elián signed up with the Young Communists Union of Cuba in June of 2008.
In 2016, Elián finished his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering. His expected due date is 2020, and he has already shared the news.
In 2013, as head of the Cuban delegation to the World Festival of Youth and Students in Ecuador, he also started his political career. Two years later, in 2023, he was nominated to run for the National Assembly of People’s Power and elected to his city’s Committee for the Defense of the Revolution.
After his election, Elián expressed to CNN his desire to serve as a “bridge” between the United States and Cuba. “I think I could be someone the American people recognize, and I can help bring the American and Cuban people together,” he said. And not just the people, but also our governments, so that they can agree and take down all the walls that separate us.