The first thing most people think of when they hear the name Elian Gonzalez is the photo. The photo of the then 6-year-old boy crying in the arms of a man who was standing in a closet while an armed federal agent pointed a gun at them. That image, taken in the early morning hours of April 22, 2000, recorded the moment in which the agents removed the boy from the home of some of his Miami relatives. This of course was not the beginning of the story.
The immigration story started nearly six months earlier, on the holiday of Thanksgiving when the boy was found in Florida coastal waters holding on to an inner tube. He was the only survivor from a raft originating in Cuba that was trying to make it to the United States. His mother, with whom he had been traveling, was one of the deceased.
After he was found, Gonzalez was taken in by relatives who lived in Miami. The boy's father, was still in Cuba however, and sought to have his son returned to him. When the relatives refused, the U.S. Government stepped in.
The story regularly made headlines on the evening news and even became part of the 2000 race for the White House. The custody case went through the U.S. legal system and it was ultimately determined that he needed to be returned to his father.
That young boy is now 18-years-old. He celebrated his birthday earlier this week. The young man still lives in Cuba and is currently a student at military academy.
Source: MSNBC, "All grown up: Elian Gonzalez, survivor of raft journey from Cuba, turns 18," The Associated Press, Dec. 7, 2011