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bullet"...Elian and Juan Miguel Gonzalez, son and father. The former is an innocent child, the latter a man whose boy was taken from him. Elian has behaved like a typical 6-year-old, Juan Miguel like a typical father. And most of the politicians like typical fools." Richard Cohen, Washington Post 3

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About Elián:

After seven miscarriages, Elizabeth Gonzalez of Cardenas, Cuba gave birth to a baby boy on 1993-DEC-6. They named him Elián Gonzalez. His name is a combination of his parents' names: Elizabeth and Juan.  After the parents separated in 1997, they shared custody of Elián. Late on 1999-NOV-22, Elián and his mother climbed onto a vessel that has been variously described as a 5.5 meter (ft.) boat, canoe or raft. They and 11 others left for the 90-mile trip to America. The only "life jackets" were in the form of three car inner tubes, shared among the 13 people.

The trip would normally take 48 to 72 hours. However, the vessel capsized and all were thrown into the water. Three survived: a young woman Arianne Horta, a man Nivaldo Fernandex, and Elián. "...at dawn on Thursday [NOV-]25...[the] child had turned up along the coast at Fort Lauderdale, unconscious and burned by the sun; not clinging to but lying face upwards in another inner tube." 1 He had probably only survived because some people on a fishing trip happened to see him. 

The U.S. federal Immigration and Naturalization Service had no choice under U.S. and international law but to return Elián to his father in Cuba. On 2000-JAN-5 they ruled that "Juan Miguel is the only person authorized to represent the child and act on his behalf." Meanwhile, Elián quickly became a victim of political passions in Florida and Cuba: The Cuban American National Foundation has conducted a highly organized campaign to keep Elián in the U.S. Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba, has mounted a similar campaign to seek Elián's return.

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The religious movement:

The media generally refers to this movement as the "Cult of Elian."  We recommend that the word "cult" be used only under special circumstances, because of the many varied meanings to the term. On this web site we use the word only when referring to destructive doomsday religious groups

The largely unorganized religious movement that has grown around Elián as messiah is based in Santeria. Santeria is a mixture of Roman Catholicism and African aboriginal religion. Various traditional gods of African belief are equated with Roman Catholic saints. Elián is viewed as the personification of Eleggua, the Afro-Cuban deity represented by a mischievous child. He has also been viewed as a form of Moses and Messiah within the Christian community.

Some evidences of these religious/spiritual movements are:

bulletThere are rumors that Santerian priests told Castro, the current dictator of Cuba, that he would be overthrown by a child who had been saved by "angels of the sea." The prophecy predicts that Castro will die on the first anniversary of the child's appearance. i.e. on 2000-NOV-25. 
bulletVarious myths have arisen about Elián's experience in the ocean:
bulletDolphins were said to have protected the boy from sharks.
bulletThey were said to have nudged him back onto the inner tube when he slipped off.
bulletElián was said to have reached toward an angel who was floating above him when he was rescued.
bulletHowever, neither his rescuer nor the Coast Guard officer who responded to the emergency saw any dolphins or angels.
bulletHis survival had miraculous features: he is said by some to have had no scratches on his legs, no sunburn; he was not particularly dehydrated after exposure to the hot sun for two days. Jose Basulto, president of Brothers to the Rescue, stated: "I've seen 450 cases of these rafters, and I've never seen one like this...Two days with his feet dangling in the water and no fish bites? No scratches? Nothing? There's no other explanation: This was an act of God." 4 
bulletAn image of the Virgin Mary is widely believed to have appeared in a mirror in Elián's bedroom.
bulletAnother image was detected in an oil stain on a nearby bank window. 
bulletA woman carrying a cross with a crucified baby doll nailed to it appeared on a TV news program.
bulletA local mural shows him as the Christ Child in the Virgin Mary's lap. 
bulletMax Castro, a sociologist at the University of Miami studies Cuban immigrants. Many refugees who left Cuba when Castro took over in 1959 are now in their early seventies and are concerned that they might die before the present regime is overthrown. Sociologist Castro, who is no relation to the dictator Castro, concluded "they're desperately looking for some sign, some announcement, some harbinger, and this boy is it.
bulletJose Marmol, a columnist in one of the Cuban papers in Florida was reported as writing: "The daughter of the pharaoh took in Moses and this changed the history of the Hebrews. Moses lived to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt to the promised land of Israel, an exodus that lasted 40 years--about the same as our exile from Cuba...Many see [Elián] as the messenger of a miraculous mission to return the liberty to the suffering Cuban people." 4
bulletCrowds have appeared outside the house where Elián is staying with some relatives. Many fall to their knees in prayer when the boy appears in his yard. One person who regularly appears there is Enrique Ferrer, a Cuban exile. He commented: "If Elián were just a [n ordinary] child, Fidel would not have bothered with him. Fidel knows he is divine, and wants to destroy him...Elián's life is not his own; its God's. He will either become the future leader of the Cuban exile community, the one whose salvation ensured the death of Castro, or he will be returned to the devil Herod Pharaoh — in other words, Fidel Castro — to be reprogrammed and ensure the survival of Cuban communism."
bulletCuban exile artist Alexis Blanco has painted "El Nino de los Delfines." This can be translated as "The Boy of the Dolphins" or as "The Christ Child of the Dolphins." Elián is shown on his inner tube, with three dolphins and a shaft of light descending from above.
bulletElián is viewed "both a savior figure and a vulnerable, miraculous totem who must be saved from Castro. Such religious fervor adds to the political passions swirling around the house — making it almost impossible for federal officials to snatch Elián away without a fight. Many say they are willing to die for Elian." 2

Meanwhile, Elián is being "venerated in Cuba too. There, he's become a symbol of American imperialism, portrayed as a slave in captivity. His school desk has become a shrine, his face peers down from billboards, and vast marches are held in his honor." 2 Elián's photograph has been posted all over his home town, Cardenas. A banner across one of the city streets reads: "The rights of the father are not negotiable.

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  1. Gabriel Marquez, "Shipwreck on dry land," Znet, 2000-APR-12, at: http://www.1worldcommunication.org/eliangonzalez.htm  
  2. R. Santiago & Helen Kennedy, "Cult believes child is Cuban messiah," NY Daily News, 2000-APR-9, at: http://www.nydailynews.com/2000-04-09/News_and_Views/ 
  3. Richard Cohen, "Fools for Elian," Washington Post, 2000-APR-6, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/
  4. Hanna Rosin, "Little Havana's 'El Milagro'," at: http://www.cubdest.org/0002/c0024cu.html 
  5. "Liberty For Elain" is the official Elián Gonzales a web site at: http://www.libertyforelian.org/ 

Copyright © 2000
Originally written: 2000-APR-13
Latest update: 2000-APR-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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