Elian Gonzalez on Mom : “I remember when I was put on the raft and my mom was covering me” – Exclusive Interview

Elian Gonzalez on mom :"I remember when I was put on the raft and my mom was covering me" - Exclusive Interview

Elian Gonzalez has given his first American TV interview as an adult, 15 years after his crying face came to embody America’s troubled relations with Cuba.

Elian Gonzalez, the boy who was found floating off the Florida coast in 1999 and was at the center of a tug of war between the United States and Cuba, is all grown up and says he wants to return to the United States.

He made the comments in an exclusive interview with ABC News.

Gonzalez was a 6-year-old boy when the boat he was in capsized and his mother drowned; he stayed with his uncle in Miami until he was forcibly removed and returned to his father in Cuba.

While things have improved between the U.S. and Cuba since then — with the two normalizing relations — Gonzalez said he only wants to come as a tourist. On the to-do list: See a baseball game, visit some museums in Washington and talk to some Americans.

“To the American people, first I say thank you for the love they give me,” Gonzalez told ABC News’ Jim Avila. “I want the time to give my love to American people.”

“For my family it has always been, we always have the desire to say to the American people, to say to each household our gratitude, appreciation and love that we have,” he said. “Perhaps one day we could pay a visit to the United States. I could personally thank those people who helped us, who were there by our side. Because we’re so grateful for what they did.”

It is the first time Gonzalez has been interviewed for American television since he was 11.

He also told of the day his mother drowned.

“I remember when the boat capsized, when we fell on the sea. I remember when I was put on the raft and my mom was covering me and I was raising my head, looking around… and at some point I raised my head and I didn’t see her again,” he said. “There was no-one else. I was alone in the middle of the sea … and that’s the last thing I remember.”