Elian Gonzalez

AP Photo/Alan Diaz

The year is 2000: Your basement is stockpiled with cans of beans left over from Y2K. Your radio is blasting Britney Spears' "Oops!...I Did It Again" or perhaps U2's "Beautiful Day." As you settle down to watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, there's a breaking news announcement... 

Elian Gonzalez—the 6-year-old Cuban boy rescued off the coast of Florida after the small boat he was traveling on with his mother went down, thus sparking an immigration battle between his family in Miami and his father back in Cuba—was taken at gunpoint and would be returned to Cuba.

(You remember the above picture, yes?)

It's been 13 years and Elian has intentionally lived a life out of the spotlight since then. But this week he made his first trip abroad since returning to Cuba over a decade ago. Here is what he looks like now:

Elian Gonzalez

AP Photo/Adalberto Roque

"I'm a little shy, so when I stand up somewhere and know that the whole world is looking at me and I'm perhaps the center of attention," Gonzalez said in a recent interview with Cubadebate (via CBS News). "It's pretty tough. I'd rather pass unnoticed." 

In the passing years, he attended a military academy and is apparently now studying industrial engineering at the Camilo Cienfuegos University of Matanzas.

Elian, now 20, has resurfaced on a trip to Ecuador, where he will attend the 23rd World Festival of Youth and Student. He is also now a Cuban revolutionary and is attending the conference to speak out against the United States' embargo on Cuba. 

(Spoiler alert: He doesn't love the U.S. If you want to dive deep into the politico of it all, best to head over to CNN. While you're there, feel free to unravel the thread that is President Barack Obama shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Casto at Nelson Mandela's memorial. Big week for Cuba news!) 

Again, then…and now! Looking good, Elian!

Elian Gonzalez

AP Photo/Alan Diaz; CNN

As for the events of 2000, he admits: "I haven't had any long-lasting psychological trauma." 

"It hasn't affected me," he continued. "But it has been hard on my family, because those were difficult moments. But in spite of everything, I'm in Cuba and that's great, because it has been 15 wonderful years in which I have experience great growth."

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share