The Elián González Discursive Template: Mediating Children in Multiple Spheres of Conflict

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this essay we return to the Elián González custody battle of 1999/2000 in order to investigate the lessons the case poses for understanding the conflicted mediation of childhood, and to ask why Elián's particular childhood continues to resonate widely years after his return to Cuba. Detailing how the Elián case ruptured the myth of Cuban exile exceptionalism, thereby ensuring that US Cubans became prey to the nativist discourses that historically targeted other US Latina/o groups, we also attend to the media, popular‐cultural, and international cooptions of the Elián story. Those cooptions indicate that the enduring and evolving Elián icon has come to provide an adaptable, differentially applied, and contradictory template by which numerous children have been pressed into symbolic service as “other Eliáns.” With this focus, we track the evolution of the Elián discursive template and its applications in cognate custody conflicts centred on the border‐crossing child as potential citizen.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-266
JournalJournal of Children and Media
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008


  • children
  • Cuba
  • Cubans
  • discursive template
  • Elián González
  • iconography
  • immigration
  • Latinas/os
  • mass-mediation
  • popular culture
  • USA


Dive into the research topics of 'The Elián González Discursive Template: Mediating Children in Multiple Spheres of Conflict'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this