The saga of Elian Gonzalez

Elián González's journey,2000
By Drawn by me. – Taken from free public map here on commons. Image:Central america.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The saga of Elian Gonzalez began almost 20 years ago when a fisherman rescued this young man from the ocean. The whole world was captivated by the story of the adorable little boy, found barely alive. He had undertaken such an incredible journey, losing his mother along the way, and the custody battle was a brutal one.

I wrote a folk song to chronicle the tale, but I had never recorded this song until today. My ability to sing has been compromised by COPD and my limited ability to breathe, but I wanted to do so because I recently had a passenger, a young violin player who left her family behind in Cuba to have a better life here.

I sang her a bit of the song, and she said she’d love to have a copy of it… and I would love to hear her interpretation of it. Today I finally managed to make a tolerable recording to send to her, and I thought I would share it here as well. (You’ll want to set the volume at about 1/3 or less!)

Ode to Elian

© 2000 by Lydia Glider-Shelley


(Key: G)

(Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo 2x)

Verse 1:

There was a sweet little Cuban boy who survived the ocean blue

he set out on a raft to America… the Land of the Free…

He was his mother’s pride and joy her dying wish for him, he knew,

Was to live a life of love, peace, and liberty.


Elian o Elian o rescued by a fisherman

Did the dolphins tell you where you are meant to be?

Elian o Elian o no one seems to understand

The tragedy that you went through out there upon the sea



Verse 2:

In Miami there was family who embraced him heart and soul

When he was found alive in an inner tube they rushed to his side

The story became history – with the relatives highest goal

To keep this child they had nurtured with so much pride

(Repeat Chorus)

Verse 3:

When the father wanted his son back Castro sent him to retrieve

The little angel whom the world now adored and bring him back home

His caregivers came under attack, yet they still tried hard to believe

In the courts they’d win custody of their dear ward


He was taken out by force from those who refused to budge

But finally now father had his son

And the protest ran its course before yet another judge…

The question here is who has really won?

(Shout “Elian!”)

(Repeat Chorus)

Song Explanation:

I wrote this song on the day Elian Gonzalez returned to Cuba with his father.

Additional links:

Wikipedia article

CNN article #1

CNN article #2

Timeline of events

Are you from Cuba? Do you remember this story? Please comment below!