Alan Diaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his photo of federal immigration agents seizing Elián González, the six-year-old Cuban refugee at the center of an international custody dispute, died July 3, according to an AP report. He was 71.
Diaz had been freelancing for AP in Miami when González was found floating in an inner tube in the waters off Fort Lauderdale. González’s mother had tried to flee Cuba with her son, her boyfriend and other adults via a small boat in November 1999. The mother drowned, and a passing fishing boat rescued González. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) placed him with relatives in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami.
Diaz befriended the family and visited their home. Meanwhile, González’s father insisted the boy be returned to him in Cuba. In June 2000, a U.S. Appeals court ruled that only González’s father could petition for U.S. asylum on the boy’s behalf. When agents for the INS (the predecessor to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE) arrived to take custody, the family called Diaz, who was ushered into the home by a González relative. He was the only photographer present for the raid.
AP put Diaz on staff shortly after publishing the photo, which won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Diaz went on to cover the Florida recount after the disputed 2000 presidential election, the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York City, hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, and the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016.
Born in New York City, Diaz was the child of Cuban immigrants, and spent much of his childhood in Cuba, where he studied photography with Alberto Korda. He moved to Miami in 1978, and began working as a stringer for AP.
Diaz announced his retirement from AP in December 2017. In an interview for AP, he said he would continue his routine, spending time in the cafes of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood with other residents of Cuban descent.
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