Relatives in Miami opened their arms to Elian. Marisleysis Gonzalez, his 21-year-old cousin, became Elian's primary caregiver. "I guess he saw that mother figure in me," she says. "He was always attached to me."
As the months wore on, Elian's story became the focus of a fierce international debate. Some believed he should stay in the United States, while others thought he should return to his father in Communist Cuba. "We just wanted the best for Elian," Marisleysis says.