Today, now an adult, Gonzalez spoke candidly to ABC News in an exclusive interview on the decision, and said he has no regrets about returning to Cuba.
“I feel good with what I have and I want nothing more,” he said.
While the 21-year-old doesn’t own a car or a house, and only had 10 pesos in his pocket, those aren’t the important things for him, he said.
“I think I’m rich; but I say I’m rich because all the things given to me by life, all the opportunities. It’s not material wealth but rather the chance to be with my father, with my family,” he said.
He added that he not only returned to Cuba, but to his hometown.
“This is the greatest possible wealth that I have," Gonzalez added. "I feel good, and I have the love of those people that I need to love me.”
His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, also spoke to ABC News and reflected on the decision to bring his son back to Cuba instead of allowing him to stay in the United States. At the time, he said, the decision was never doubted.
“Not ever have I thought I took the wrong decision,” Juan Miguel Gonzalez said. “At all moments, I was clear on what my principles were and what I wanted, which was to get my life back where I grew up and got raised.
"I could have gotten anywhere else in the world," he added. "Besides, I don't think that anywhere else in the world my kid would have become the kid he is today.”
One of the reasons Elian Gonzalez had not done any interviews recently, his father said, was because he wanted to protect his son and allow him to have a normal life.
“I want nobody to be harassing the child with questions of any kind of questioning,” Juan Miguel Gonzalez said. “At that time, I decided to give the interviews myself so I could not affect the child, so he could lead a normal life, as normal as possible. But now the child is a grown up, he has been living his life, he has the chance to say what he wants.”
Elian Gonzalez agreed, and still feels that returning to Cuba was the best thing for him.
“I feel safe in Cuba, and I believe that after the years my dad always said that I was free to do what I wanted, but when I had the age to do so," he said. "At the time, I was 5 years old and, at the time, the right thing was to be with my father."
He added that he also enjoyed the privacy his life in Cuba afforded him.
“I’ve been living to the fullest and have something, perhaps, I wouldn’t have had in the United States -- is the respect of the press to live my life in a normal way," he said. "To grow like a normal young man, I developed myself, I have friends, I go to parties and I practice sports. And I thank my dad because of that, above all.”