News-Inspired Baby Names: Elian & Marisleysis

elian, 2000, miami, INS
Elián González (Alan Diaz/Pool/Reuters)
In November of 1999, a 5-year-old Cuban boy named Elián González and his mother Elizabeth (along with others) attempted to escape Cuba and reach the U.S. The boat capsized and most of the group drowned, including Elizabeth. But Elián survived — he was found adrift several miles off the coast of Florida by a pair fishermen.

A battle for custody ensued between Elián’s maternal relatives in the U.S. and his father in Cuba. Elián essentially “became a metaphor for the passionate 40-year struggle over Cuba.”

In April of 2000, INS agents raided the house in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood where Elián, now 6, was staying. (The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo above was taken during the raid.) Elián was successfully retrieved and returned to Cuba.

The baby name Elian had been rare in the U.S. up to this point, but watch what happened in 1999 and 2000:

  • 2002: 206 baby boys named Elian [rank: 816th]
  • 2001: 271 baby boys named Elian [rank: 670th]
  • 2000: 578 baby boys named Elian [rank: 426th]
  • 1999: 23 baby boys named Elian
  • 1998: unlisted (fewer than 5)
  • 1997: unlisted (fewer than 5)

Very few of these Elians were born in Florida, which I found surprising, given the number of Cubans in Florida. Of the Elians born in 2000, 27% were born in Texas and 20% were born in California, but just 3% were born in Florida.

And let’s not forget about 21-year-old Marisleysis González, the family member who acted as Elián’s caretaker while he was in the U.S. Her name became a two-hit wonder on the charts around the same time:

  • 2002: unlisted
  • 2001: 10 baby girls named Marisleysis
  • 2000: 34 baby girls named Marisleysis [debut]
  • 1999: unlisted

Recent interviews with Elián indicate that he and Marisleysis are no longer on speaking terms, unfortunately. But the same interviews also reveal that Elián now has a fiance with a similarly intriguing name: Ilianet.

Have you ever met an Elian who was born circa 1999/2000? If so, was he aware of the story of Elián González?

Sources: Saving Elian – Frontline – PBS, Elian Gonzalez’s Uncle, Fisherman Who Rescued Him, Reflect on Tense 2000 Standoff


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