Elian Gonzalez and Family, Five Years On

ByABC News via via logo

Nov. 21, 2004 — -- The carnival-like scene that surrounded the Elian Gonzalez case five years ago -- the protesters, the politicians, the media -- is long gone now.

The house where little Elian Gonzalez lived in Miami's Little Havana section remains -- only, now it's been turned into a museum by Elian's great-uncle Delfin Gonzalez.

Inside, Elian's toys are on display in glass cases. The clothes he wore still hang in his closet. His bed is made as if he might still return.

"It's an historic site because of what happened here," Delfin says.

Elian lived in the house in Little Havana with his Miami relatives for five months as they defied the wishes of the boy's father -- and orders from American courts -- that he be returned to Cuba.

Finally, one night federal agents raided the house and took him away. Elian was reunited with his father in Washington, D.C., and soon after was taken back to Cuba.

"The whole family is happy with what we did," Delfin Gonzalez says. "When somebody does something with desire and morals, you can't regret it."

Delfin lives happily in the past, but the other members of the Gonzalez family have tried to move on.

Marisleysis Gonzalez was Elian's emotionally fragile young cousin.

Today, she owns her own hair salon.

"I don't regret him coming. It was a very good experience for me and I got to meet him. He was a great boy," she says.

Many Cuban-Americans in Miami took the battle over Elian very personally, and are still coming to grips with how they handled the crisis.

When Elian was taken away, little Havana erupted in riots.

"Their image to the international community and the nation at large was one of intolerant and very emotional and angry people who stop at nothing to achieve their political needs," says Oscar Corral, a reporter for the Miami Herald.

But in the cafes of Little Havana, you can still find Cuban-Americans who say they regret nothing.

"If we have to do it again, we'll do it and do it and do it again," one man said.

Another area resident said, "I think we won the battle in proving that there is freedom and people have to still believe in that and fight for that."

Elian, who turns 11 next month, now lives with his father in the small Cuban town of Cardenas. Like any other Cuban child, he plays with his brother and visits family.

But unlike other children, when he celebrates a birthday, Fidel Castro is there to help blow out the candles.

Elian is still a national hero in Cuba and as such, he is sometimes at Castro's side at public events.

In an interview two years ago, Juan Miguel Gonzalez told ABC News' Barbara Walters that Elian still thinks about his mother, whom he watched perish at sea when he was just 5 years old.

"He remembers everything. He knows and he's aware of everything that happened," Gonzalez told Walters.

The Cuban government has kept the media away from Elian. And, of course, his American relatives are not allowed to speak to him.

So, from the boy himself -- who set off an international dispute that lasted five months -- we still know very little.

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