Ten years on, Cuban castaway Elian Gonzalez is happy back home

Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban castaway boy who became the object of an international custody battle a decade ago in Miami, said on Wednesday he was happy he ended up back in Cuba.

But, in his first public comments in several years, he also said he has no hard feelings toward the Miami relatives who fought to keep him there, on grounds that he would have a better life in the United States.



"This is the place I belong. Here I feel good," Gonzalez told reporters after a Havana church service commemorating the 10th anniversary of his return.



"Thanks to the help of a big part of the American people and of our people, today I'm with my father, and that is everything," said the clean-cut 16-year-old who is studying to become a Cuban military officer.



Elian was a photogenic five-year-old when he was found floating on an inner tube off the Florida coast in November 1999.



His mother and other Cubans accompanying the boy had died trying to get to the United States from the communist island 90 miles (145 km) to the south.



His case quickly became another battleground in the long-running feud between Havana and Miami, as his great-uncle's family tried to keep him in the United States.



Fidel Castro launched an international campaign for his return to his father and grandparents, which carried the day when U.S. immigration agents seized the boy at gunpoint from the Miami home of his relatives, who had refused to give him up.



"Even though they didn't support us in everything ... I have no bitterness toward them," Elian said of his family in the United States.



He was returned to Cuba and a big welcome on June 28, 2000. Two days later, Fidel Castro attended a celebratory service at the same Episcopal church where Wednesday's event was held.



Castro, now 83 and ailing, did not attend this time, but his brother and replacement, President Raul Castro, sat front and center with young Elian, who was dressed in white jeans and a striped short-sleeve shirt.



They chatted throughout the service and President Castro hugged him and his family before leaving, without speaking to reporters.



To the chagrin of the anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Florida, Gonzalez has joined Cuba's ruling Communist Party and supports the revolution that put Fidel Castro in power in 1959.



He is mostly shielded from the press, but stories about him occasionally appear in Cuban media.



His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, speaking to reporters while he and his son posed for pictures with church-goers, said it was definitely the right decision to bring Elian back to Cuba.



"I am even more certain today than I was at that moment," he said. "To see him today, doing well, with good grades in school, it shows that what we did, we did not do for no reason."



Unlike his son, the elder Gonzalez said he still bears a grudge against the family in Miami for not helping him get Elian back, and he had a simple message for them.



"Here, we are united, with my people, who behaved better than they did," he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Financial Analyst -International TV Production

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: 6 month contract (Initially)A global e...

Recruitment Genius: Project Management Support Assistant

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Railway Museum, the largest of its ...

Sauce Recruitment: FP&A Analyst -Home Entertainment

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project