Gonzalez, now 21, opens up about his life in Cuba

By Maria Mercedes Lara
Updated May 17, 2015 10:05 PM

ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment NewsElian Gonzalez is opening up about his life nearly 16 years after his headline-making rescue off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Gonzalez, now 21, sat down with ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jim Avila for his first-ever American interview as an adult. It also marks the first time he’s spoken at length in nearly 10 years.

“To the American people, first I say thank you for the love,” Gonzalez says in a preview clip from the interview. He admits that he has forgotten his “English skills” a bit since returning to Cuba in 2000.

Gonzalez was famously rescued near Florida in November 1999 after he was found clinging to an inner tube after a boat carrying him, his mother, and 18 other Cubans sank, killing everyone except Gonzalez and two other adults.

His plight became an international media circus, with the two sides of his family – his relatives living in Miami and his father living in Cuba, battling to keep him in their respective countries. He was eventually returned to his father in Cuba, where he still lives.

The interview will air in clips on Good Morning America, World News Tonight with David Muir and Nightline on Monday, May 18 at 7:00 a.m., 6:30 p.m. and 12:35 a.m., ET, respectively on ABC.