How Many T-shirts and Banners Must He Become?
by Mark A. Rogers
Valle reported that Lazaro and his brother Jikary were believed to be the first
to perish in the sea. A third who went to help was perhaps the boys’ father,
Rafael. According to de Valle’s account:
One of them decided to try and
swim for land and send help. When he ran into difficulty, his brother followed.
When both seemed to struggle, a third man swam off to help them. None of the
three were ever seen again.
told de Valle that when a woman in the group had learned that her sons had
perished in the sea she decided that she had nothing left to live for and let go
of the inner tube to perish as well. De Valle believed that this woman was
Lazaro’s mother, Mariellena Garcia. Arianne told de Valle that she tried to grab
this woman while she and the others screamed out their pleas for this woman to
hold on to the inner tube.
and Nivaldo told de Valle that on Wednesday they screamed and waved at several
big ships to come and rescue them, but that they went unnoticed. De Valle
reported that Arrianne, Elián, and another woman, possibly Merida Barrios,
Nelson Rodriguez’s mother, who was believed to have been the last voyager with
Elián, were on one inner tube while Nivaldo remained on the other one. According
to de Valle’s account, later in the day on Wednesday, Nivaldo became delirious
and was starting to lose consciousness. Arianne untied herself from the inner
tube and swam over to Nivaldo’s inner tube to slap him back to life.
it became dark the couple told de Valle that they could see little lights off in
the distance. They also told de Valle they were certain they were seeing a
shoreline. They decided to swim for the shoreline but they told her that the
currents kept pushing them back out to sea. De Valle reported, “Tired, weak and
thirsty, they decided to rest for a while, keeping their eyes on the
to the account the couple reported to de Valle, on the morning of Thanksgiving
Day, 25 November 1999 when the couple woke up from falling half-asleep because
they could no longer keep their eyes open, they realized that they had become
separated from Elián’s inner tube. When the couple again saw some lights they
began to kick and paddle the inner tube toward the lights and eventually saw
some boats and a marina just off Key Biscayne.
the mean time, de Valle reported Donato Dalyrymple along with his cousin, Sam
Ciancio, were in Sam’s boat with Donato at the controls on the Intracoastal
Waterway in Pompano Beach headed out on a fishing trip. Donato told de Valle,
“We were just out of Lighthouse Point, and I was zigzagging southeast at an
angle. There were three- to five-foot waves. It was rough out there, very
rough.” Sam was baiting the poles when Donato spotted “a dark thing, circular in
shape” at approximately 8:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. When they approached the
object, Donato told de Valle he thought there was a person inside the inner tube
and saw what he believed was a hand and the top of a man’s head. When Sam looked
again at the inner tube he told his cousin, “Isn’t that a sick joke? That
somebody would tie a doll to an inner tube?”
men began to reel in their catch when they felt tugs on the poles. Sam was
working on reeling in a fish while Donato lost the bite on his pole and told de
Valle, “So I went back to the steering wheel to get a closer look. I didn’t
think it was a dummy in there.” De Valle reported that Donato told her something
kept nagging him.
I’m telling you there’s
someone in that inner tube. I think he’s dead,” he yelled to his cousin. Then,
as if on cue, he saw a hand move. It slipped a little, then reached up again to
get a better grasp.
cousin told him to pull the boat over as he stripped in seconds and jumped into
the water. When he pulled the boy in, they couldn’t believe it.
asked him, ‘Do you speak English?’ and he didn’t answer,” Dalrymple said. “He
didn’t look American, so I asked, ‘Tu hablas español?” and he said, ‘Si.’ But
real softly, like a little sigh.”
boy never cried. “He never showed any tears or signs of being scared, even
though he’s probably been through hell and back and I’m sure he’s never seen two
Americans before,” Dalrymple said, his eyes widening as if he were telling the
story for the first time.
man with the tattoos covering both forearms cradled the weak foreign boy in his
my cousin is on the phone, I’m kissing his face, his forehead and his cheeks and
his chin, and holding him,” Dalrymple said, crossing his arms on his chest as if
he still held the child.
exhausted boy immediately fell asleep, he said.
Elián woke up to face must have been a reality that he has never experienced
before in his life and also a reality that he never imagined he would ever have
to face in the course of his lifespan. Aldo Madruga (2000, January) reported
that all of Cuba knows Elián and today is concerned about his destiny.
Elián is the Cuban boy who in
a few day’s time went from happy and peaceful anonymity to the front pages of
many of the world’s newspapers, his drama spotlighted before millions of
readers. His story is, despite everything else, that of a child. You could begin
telling it by talking about his handmade scooter and scores of games, whose
current silence is a confirmation of the emptiness and sadness eating away at
the González and Brotón families…You could begin it by mentioning the blue,
white and red kite he made with his uncle Juan Antonio, which he left behind in
Cuba, never having flown it—along with the red star he gave to his grandmother
to decorate it the next day—which today brings back memories and gives hope that
he may be returned, putting an end to the pain. Or you could talk about the
wooden sword made by one of his grandparents, that’s lost its edge after having
fended off heartache and nostalgia so much during these days; or focus on the
small ring that he gave to his grandmother Mariela a few months ago out of his
love for her, which today she caresses.
Newman, CNN Havana Bureau Chief (2000, January 7) reported that Juan Miguel
González, the biological father of Elián, has been attending many of the protest
rallies that demand Elián is repatriated to his papá in Cuba. Newman stated that
Juan Miguel has never spoken up at these rallies, and now for the first time, he
addressed the crowd.
We're going now on so many days without
being able to hug, kiss or feel my son. Words can't describe the feelings that
this separation has caused. I come here to express that it would have been
impossible to go through all the suffering if it had not been, if it had not
been¾if I had not been able to count on you,
the people of Cuba. Elián is not a t- shirt. He is not a banner. Elián was
kidnapped, and what he stands for is the dignity of
a segment of CNN’s World View where Bernard Shaw, CNN Anchor, (2000, January 5)
posed a question to Lucian Newman regarding whether Elián’s repatriation was a
political issue, or an issue just about a little boy, she offered the following
Well technically, this is just
about a little boy, but it’s obvious that this wouldn’t be an issue if it
weren’t political. From the very moment that Elian Gonzales set foot on the U.S.
soil, he became a banner, a symbol, that has fanned the old Cold War passions,
the old Cold War sentiments, that have been really ruling the relationships
between the United States and Cuba for more than 41 years now. And in Cuba, he
also became a symbol and a banner that the government has used to depict what it
called the arrogance of the empire of the United States, and certainly this has
had some echo on the public here.
McDermott, CNN Correspondent, (2000, January 5) produced a segment for in
“Focus” that responded to Joie Chien’s (CNN anchor) question that there are
people who say that Elián has been living a charmed life over the past month or
longer since he arrived in the U.S., but on the other hand, what does a 6-year
old child like Elián think about when he’s the center of so much
MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (VOICE OVER): You are only 6 years old, and already
a survivor. You survived the breakup of your parents, and you had to leave your
father behind when your mother decided to sail from Cuba on a terrible journey
to America, a journey that killed your mother. But you made it all the way to
Fantasy Land. It must have looked wonderful¾the
amusement parks, those piles of presents, not to mention cakes and ponies, and
all for you.
must you be thinking? A child psychologist can only guess.
GILLOOLY, PSYCHOLOGIST: I’m assuming this will probably feel like a dream to
A good dream, no doubt, if only because there’s simply so much fun here, and
there are so many people who love you here. Now Cuba might seem drab after the
dazzle. No Disney World, no ponies, but it does share something precious with
the U.S. In Cuba, there are people who love you, too. What must you be thinking?
Are you even aware of the forces pulling at you¾your
Cuban family, the family in the U.S.? Now some officials say you will go home,
but your American family says they’ll fight that all the way. Well, can you go
back? You are a survivor.
Children are adaptable. There’s no doubt about that. Children are remarkably
Yes, but you are only 6 years old. You may not know about this international
tug-of-war, or even care. Maybe, despite the dazzle, what you really are is a
little boy who’s lost his mother. What must you be thinking?
Madruga (2000, January) reported that Yamilín Morales Delgado, Elián’s
first-grade teacher in Cuba has cried a lot these days thinking about what Elián
has gone through. “So small, alone in the ocean clinging to an inner tube,
amidst the darkness and the ocean, terrorized.” She reported that Elián is a shy
boy who is honest, well raised and gets along capably with his classmates.
“…Aside from his mother’s mistake, [he] was well looked after by her and his
father. Both of them took care of him that’s what I’m told.” She went on to tell
What could have been his last words to
his mother? Could he have seen her die? How many things could he have heard and
seen in those moments when death claimed 14 in the tragedy? What kinds of
terrible scenes will stay in the memory of this small boy? …So when I see his
empty chair and realize the pressures he’s exposed to in the United States, so
small and with such a terrible recent experience, it breaks my heart, …they have
to be very blind and sick with hatred to use a child in such circumstances in
their politics against the Cuban Revolution.
Miguel González, Elián’s father, told Aldo Madruga (2000), people are trying to
gain Elián’s favor by buying him toys and gifts that are influencing Elián’s
telephone conversations with Juan Miguel. Madruga reported that he recently
visited Juan Miguel and his family in Cárdenas after Juan Miguel had just
finished talking with his son on the telephone. Madruga reported that Juan
Miguel was red with anger and also short of breath. When Madruga asked Juan
Miguel about his conversation with his son, Juan Miguel told
He hasn’t forgotten his
family, but it’s a crime how they’re pressuring my son to tell me things they
want him to say. After I told him to be calm, that we were doing everything
possible to get him back soon, I heard a voice from an older person telling him
to say that he wanted to stay and become a pilot for Brothers to the Rescue.
They interrupted him constantly and tried to get him to say what they wanted. He
told me at the end ‘Bye-bye, papá,’ and I told him to tell me good-bye in
Spanish. …They plan to have a trial in Miami to decide who will have custody of
my son, with the hope of buying off the judges like they always do but I’m not
stupid, nor am I going to give them that pleasure. They have to return Elián,
and from here I demand it. My lawyer is the best in the world: the people of
Mitchell (2000, January 8) discussed with Fidel Castro, President of Cuba,
during part of the interview related to the case of Elián González, Castro’s
concerns with how Elián’s personality could change the longer Elián remains in
One of the
things that most concerned our people is the idea that this child has been
showered with sophisticated toys; they even put him in a toy plane to pretend
that he was a Brothers to the Rescue pilot, and dressed him in clothes and
sweatshirts with the emblem of the infamous Cuban American National Foundation
which, in any case, is not national but bi-national, given that it is composed
of ex-Cubans and a certain number of U.S. citizens. That wounded our people
very, very much.
that his family in Cuba, the child’s father, has gone for over 48 hours without
talking to the child, first because he was getting dressed and ready for the
banquet and then, on Sunday or Monday, because they took him to Disney World, to
take photos of him with all the Disney characters, and to stay overnight in a
cabana there. During those 50 hours, the family was unable to talk to the boy.
They were only able to do so last night, and the conversations are controlled,
with the boy under pressure. Those things cause anger, and have concerned
eminent scientists, psychologists, specialists in child psychology, specialists
in education, because they are doing monstrous things to that six-year-old
child, as the world looks on. We’re not so concerned about avoiding a
prolongation of the family’s suffering, which is terrible¾the father
above all is suffering terribly and the grandparents as well, and they are the
ones who have the right to his custody and care. It’s not a question of a few
days, more or less. The vital question is, how long does it take to change the
mentality of a six-year-old child?
Mitchell asked Castro about his apprehension that Elián could say he wants to
stay in the U.S., and that all the toys he is receiving might seduce him, Castro
is that his real family in Cuba cannot resign itself to the idea, and the people
cannot resign themselves to the idea that, by using those cynical procedures,
they are trying to change the mentality of a child, to uproot him from his real
family, from his nearest and dearest, to break those links in an innocent and
defenseless child, to destroy that. What will be left of that child’s identity?
Thus, the response that we want from scientists and the specialists is to know
how long it could take to change the mentality of a child at that early
myself: “Why do they want to stretch this out, possibly to change the child’s
mentality, to destroy the mind of that child? What will be left of that child’s
psychology? How will he re-adapt to the bosom of his real family? And I know his
family members have suffered, precisely through perceiving a certain state of
timidity in the child, at certain times, as if they were trying to wrest the
father’s affection from him. That is a crime, one of the most monstrous crimes.
If somebody sees that a child is being murdered, that his life is being torn to
pieces, surely they won’t be in agreement. If they see that a child’s mind is
being destroyed, totally changed, for shameless propagandistic ends, that is
worse than physical death, and I am sure that many people have become aware that
this is the destruction of the mind of a six-year-old boy.
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Copyright © 2000, Mark A. Rogers, M.S., M.A., Psy.D.
All rights reserved.
Honisa Behavioral Treatment Centers, Inc.
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