"The attachment included with this letter is a document arguing
return to Cuba, and is being distributed from our corporate
individuals in different branches of the government, and to both
electronic mediums, domestically and internationally.
We hope you or your staffers will have the time to read this
consider Dr. Rogers’ analysis of what is happening to Elián.
The document is intended to raise public consciousness on the
psychological pressure being exerted on Elián. Everyone seems to
for this boy. Dr. Rogers is concerned that the legal wrangling,
tug-of-war, and emerging politics, are the only issues being
covered in this
repatriation controversy. Little attention is being directed to
pressures are affecting the emotional, psychological development
little boy, his father, and their relationship with one another.
hopes that you and the media and electronic mediums may have
time to look at
this document, consider the views, and then help to advocate for
Elián’s emotional and psychological well being in this traumatic
Rogers advocates that Elián needs to return to his father so
Elián can begin
the inevitable healing process. This document is Dr. Roger’s
for everyone to keep these issues in mind. Dr. Rogers is asking
us all to
reflect on, how many T-shirts and banners must Elián become?
Dr. Rogers served as a clinical consultant and also was as a
therapist for over six years at The Association House of
Chicago, a private,
nonprofit Latino community-based social service agency.
Dr. Mark A. Rogers, M.S., M.A., Psy.D.
Honisa Behavioral Treatment Centers, Inc.
10 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 1800
Chicago, Illinois 60606
Running head: Elián González
How Many T-shirts and Banners Must He Become?
Elián González: How Many T-shirts and Banners Must He Become?
Mark A. Rogers, M.S., M.A., Psy.D.
Honisa Behavioral Treatment Centers, Inc.
10 South Riverside Plaza
United States of America
Elián González: How Many T-shirts and Banners Must He Become?
In the dawn of 22 November 1999, Elaine de Valle (1999) reported that Elián González, his mother and her common-law husband, along with 11 Cubans, waded through shallow waters off Cárdenas in the province of Matanzas pushing a 17- to 20-foot boat away from homes so these émigrés (immigrants) would not be seen or heard. The Cubans’ voyage was headed out into the Florida Straights to the United States of America in search of libertad y una nuevo existencia (freedom and a new life). In the high profile international debate over whether Elián should be repatriated to his papá in Cuba or allowed to remain in Miami with relatives, de Valle maintains there also are the life stories or generative legacies of the 11 others(who they were and why they risked this deadly voyage. Through the interviews with the two adult survivors and the family of the dead émigrés in this country and Cuba, pieced together with the narrative of the U.S. Border Patrol, de Valle and The Miami Herald tried to re-create this tragic journey, which in this writer’s opinion helps to illuminate why Elián González is so many T-shirts and banners for so many peoples in our global family of cultures vying for their right to reality.
de Valle argues that the genesis of this story originated nearly 18 months ago when Lazaro Rafael Munero Garcia, who was the organizer of this deadly voyage, first came to South Florida. It was the night of 29 June 1998 when he landed near mile marker 71 in the Keys and told Border Patrol agents that he had come upon a 12-foot boat with three other men. de Valle reported that he spent the night at the Krome detention center and then was released into the community the next morning. His uncle and aunt, Jorge and Maria Lopez Munero offered to let Lazaro live with them and the couple’s young daughter in the small addition that they rent in Flagami. Jorge told de Valle, "From the beginning, he would cry for his parents, his wife and the boy." de Valle reported that Lazaro’s family does not believe that he was legally married to Elizabet Brotons Rodriguez, Elián’s mother, yet, on the other hand, they maintained the two lived together for years. "He considered her his wife," Jorge told de Valle.
"He lived for her. He couldn’t be happy here without her and the little boy. He loved that boy, too."
de Valle said that the family told her that Lazaro worked at a carwash seven days a week to send "much-needed dollars back to loved ones in Cuba." Maria Lopez Munero told de Valle that Lazaro would leave around 7 or 7:30 in the morning and not come home until 9 or 10 at night. He would eat and then go to sleep. She told de Valle, "He never went out to parties or even to drive around. I once told him, ‘Come with me and the girls to the movies,’ but he said no, that he couldn’t enjoy it."
de Valle reported that in October 1999, less than three months from his escape from Cuba, Lazaro boarded a motorized inflatable raft, headed south, which is a direction few Cuban’s take, and ended up with a 62-day jail sentence in a Cuban state security prison in Santa Clara. Jorge Munero told de Valle, "Maybe they thought he was infiltrating the country to do some harm or something, since he came from here." Jorge stated that when Lazaro was released from prison on New Year’s Eve a year ago that Lazaro began to drive a cab in Cárdenas.
Jorge told de Valle that he spoke with his brother and Lazaro approximately two weeks before the deadly voyage. This telephone conversation was the last time that Jorge would ever speak again with Lazaro.
Hey boy! How the heck are you? As good as can be expected, uncle," Lazaro answered. "But things will get better. You’re going to get a big surprise."
"You had your chance(and you blew it."
"Just wait, uncle. Just wait. It won’t be long."
When his brother came back to the phone, Jorge Munero asked him what his nephew was talking about.
"Pay no attention," Raphael Munero said. "You know how he talks craziness."
de Valle said relatives reflecting back on the course of events leading up to this deadly voyage reported to her that Lazaro intended to collect "the materials, money and family members to make life in the United States worth it." de Valle said Lazaro’s entire nuclear family, his father, Rafael, his mother, Marielena Garcia, his brothers Jikary and mentally disabled Ricardo, and his common-law wife, Elizabet agreed to go on the voyage. de Valle reported Lazaro and Elizabet also took Elián on this voyage.
According to de Valle, Elizabet who was a waitress at the Punta Arena Paraiso Hotel in Varadero Beach with Zenaida Santos discussed the plan for this voyage. Zenaida who was married to Nelson Rodriguez, the brother-in-law of Elizabet’s neice in Miami, both were on this voyage along with Nelson’s brother Juan Carlos, and these boys’ parents, Juan Manuel Rodriguez and Merida Barrios. de Valle reported this whole family also drowned and that the body of Juan Manuel Rodriguez is one of the remaining four that has not been recovered. She reported Lazaro and Jikary Munero along with Elizabet Brotons were lost at sea. Lika Guillermo also was another one of the fatalities on this deadly voyage. de Valle reported that Lika told her grandmother, Rosa Bentancourt, that she was going to visit her sister. de Valle reported that Lika, even though she declined two previous opportunities to leave illegally the country, planned to flee legally to the United States. So what caused her pause in the past? de Valle reported Lika’s relatives told her that Lika was afraid, that she didn’t know how to swim, and that nobody expected her to go on this type of voyage. Lika’s aunt, Rosa Bentancourt, told de Valle, "If I knew where she was going, I would have gone after her. I would not have let her go."
de Valle reported that many people were part of the plan, yet, on the other hand, no one knew that Lazaro was "building a vessel using spare parts, aluminum and a motor he fashioned. He used money he saved as a taxi driver and cash he got from selling his 1955 Chevrolet. He made himself captain of the voyage," because as Lazaro’s best friend said, "He knew the most. He had experience. It looks like he talked the others into it."
Rafael Munero, Lazaro’s father, according to de Valle, was uneasy about the voyage because he was leaving behind his younger brother, Dagoberto, who worked with Rafael and who was more like his son than his brother. Dagoberto told de Valle that he went to Rafael’s home to either talk Rafael out of taking this voyage or to say goodbye. Dagoberto reported to de Valle that his brother "seemed half-drunk and half-ready to stay home. He didn’t want me to stay. And I didn’t want him to leave." Dogoberto stated that he tried to persuade his brother to change his mind. But Dogoberto’s sister-in-law and Lazaro were there too, and according to de Valle, they were eager to go.
I gave him advice, Dagoberto Munero said. I said, ‘Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go.’ I didn’t want him to go because he was like my father. I can’t live without him. But every time I tried to say that, my nephew would step in to say, ‘Why are you taking these ideas out of his head?’ We exchanged a few salty words.
Dogoberto told de Valle that Lazaro threw him out of the house and "I didn’t say goodbye." While this incident was going on, de
Valle reported that Elizabet was informing her family that she was going to take a two-hour trip to the "the big city." According to her mother, Raquel Rodriguez told de Valle that Elizabet "…was going to Havana for a visit. I never saw her again." And de Valle also reported that the only two adult survivors, Arianne Horta Alfonso and her boyfriend, Nivaldo Fernandez Ferran, told U.S. Border Patrol Agents that when they found out about the voyage, they offered Lazaro $1,000 to take them with him. Lazaro’s uncle in Miami, Jorge Munero, told de Valle that he was sure his nephew "didn’t charge anyone for the trip, all of them being family in one way or another." de Valle reported that Elizabet was related to the "Rodriguez clan through her niece Carmen, the wife of a third Rodriguez boy, Orlando, who left Cuba last year." de Valle also reported that Jorge Munero told her that more than likely "Lazaro feared that if he didn’t take the couple, they would spill the beans." At approximately 4:30 a.m. on 21 November 1999, according to de Valle’s account
The 15 would-be emigrants made their way to Sierrita, a spot on the shore a block or so from a shipyard where tin houses are far enough away so that no one can see you. …They carried water, bread, crackers, cheese and previously boiled hot dogs. Like many rafters before them, they also took three inflated inner tubes(just in case they needed them(which they tied and trailed behind the boat.
de Valle reported trouble with the outboard engine forced the émigrés to return to the Cuban coast to repair the engine. Arianna Horta took this opportunity because she feared that the voyage was going to be too dangerous to drop off her daughter, Estefani, who was 5-years old. Once the émigrés believed that the problem with the motor was fixed, they started out again in the dawn of 22 November 1999 for the Florida Straights to the United States of America in search of libertad y una nuevo existencia.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry, de Valle stated, had alerted the U.S. Coast Guard about the overloaded boat that was traveling for U.S. waters. The Cuban Boarder Patrol reported it identified the boat on Monday morning leaving the waters of Cárdenas. Cuban Boarder Patrol agents repeatedly warned the passengers to turn the boat back. de Valle reported that U.S. Coast Guard officials admitted that they had received a telex from their Cuban counterparts. They dispatched agency planes and cutters to search for the boat, and according to de Valle, they found nothing on the waters.
Late on Monday, 22 November 1999 not only did the group run into foul weather, but also the engine once again quit on the boat. According to all of the accounts received by de Valle, the group drifted in five-foot waves, bailing water that was coming in over the sides of the boat, until Tuesday night.
Arianne Horta Alfonso and her boyfriend, Nivaldo Fernandez Ferran told de Valle it was dark when the boat capsized. They reported that the group clung to the hull of the boat for a while before they were able to right it again. The boat continued to take on water. The group decided to use the inner tubes because they were afraid that the boat would sink. They formed two groups on the inner tubes because one of the inner tubes had become flat. The women passengers and Elián were on one inner tube while the men were on the other one. Then, according to de Valle, "one by one, they started slipping into the sea."
de 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.
Arianne 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.
Arianne 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.
When 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 horizon."
According 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.
In 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?"
The 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.
His 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.
"I asked him, ‘Do you speak English?’ and he didn’t answer," Dalrymple said. "He didn’t look American, so I asked, ‘Tu hablas espańol?" and he said, ‘Si.’ But real softly, like a little sigh."
The 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.
The man with the tattoos covering both forearms cradled the weak foreign boy in his arms anyway.
"While 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.
The exhausted boy immediately fell asleep, he said.
What 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.
This Page was created On 23rd January, 2000