In 1961, my father, 21 year-old Edgar Sopo, put down his books, picked-up a rifle, and risked his life in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Just two years before, his father, my grandfather, died as a political prisoner at the hands of a revolution he once hoped would free his country of another dictator. (To be clear, my father never favored Castro’s 26th of July Movement; he sympathized with the Christian democratic groups of the time.) Like most youth of his day, he strongly opposed the Batista regime and wanted democracy restored to Cuba. He held this desire close to him, yearned for it, and fought for it until he died 40 years later. A beautiful Cuban flag draped his coffin at St. Brendan Church.
Look, I’m not a big fan of President Trump, but watching him address Brigade 2506 on Friday made me think a lot about my dad. He was a man of principle who dedicated his life to battling the evils of communism that robbed him of his youth, his father, and the place he called home. The physical and emotional scars of that war eventually cost him his life, as he succumbed to cirrhosis battling depression and alcoholism for decades. Some blows are so hard that they can take down even the most valiant of fighters.
I could not asked for better parents. A strong and caring single mother raised me while my father fought the good fight. Despite the flaws that made him human, I also could not be more proud of him and the fact that I will always carry his name, as will my unborn children. It’s always an honor to speak with the people who knew him because they all say the same thing: “Giancarlo, tu padre fue un heroe”, “Edgar fue un patriota, un gran cubano”, “Sopo fue amigo de sus amigos”… To my sisters and me, he was just dad, the guy who taught me how to play catch. To him, I was just champ.
We lost him when I was just 16. While I wish I had gotten to know him better, I feel like he’s always with me. He may have died a poor man, but I inherited the best things one could ever ask for from a parent: a strong set of values to guide me, especially when I make mistakes; a living example of the meaning of true love in all its forms—of country, family, and fellow man; and a brave fighter to watch over our family.
I love you, dad. Happy Father’s Day.