Many may not know the name Alan Diaz but many recognize the photographs Diaz took in his 24-year career as an Associated Press (AP) photographer, including his Pulitzer Prize winning photo of 10-year old Elian Gonzalez being taken by U.S. Border Patrol.
Diaz, was born to Cuban parents in New York, and returned to Cuba as a teenager along with his family, living there until his early 30’s. During his time in Cuba he worked as a teacher and learned photography under the tutelage of one of Cuba’s most famous photographers Alberto Korda. Korda is credited with taken the 1960 photo of revolutionary Che Guevara, the Guerrillero Heroico photo is one of the most iconic symbols of the Cuban Revolution and recognized throughout the world.
When Diaz returned to the States he continued to work as a teacher and also started freelancing as a photographer for AP in Miami. Thanks to his Miami connections and ability to speak Spanish he was given a front seat view to the controversy over the young boy found floating off Florida waters trying to escape Cuba along with his mother who perished in the journey.
The award winning photographer was the only person to capture the dramatic moment in 2000 when U.S. border patrol seized young Elian to send him back to his father in Cuba, after a long international custody battle. It was that image of Gonzalez crying as armed agents carried him that won Diaz the Pulitzer.
Diaz went on to capture other important events in Florida for AP including hanging chads during the Florida recount of 2000, the aftermath of many deadly hurricane seasons and most recently the deadly 2016 Orlando mass shooting in a gay night club where many of the victim were Latino.
AP said of Diaz: “Alan Diaz will be remembered for taking one of the most iconic photographs in Miami’s history, but what is less known about Alan I that he was a humble, dedicated, hard-working news photographer that loved covering every aspect of his community.”
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