Enrique Ros, the father of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, lived the history of the clandestine resistance against Fidel Castro in the early 1960s that he recounted in the 19 books he authored.
At a time when Fidel Castro was sending hundreds of opponents to the firing squads, Ros was the on-island coordinators of the Christian Democratic Movement, one of the underground groups fighting to topple Castro.
“Enrique not only was a great historian. He was a man who made history,” said Pedro Roig, a long time friend of Ros, who died late Wednesday from respiratory complications at South Miami Hospital at the age of 89.
“My Dad was and will always be the wind beneath my wings. His passing leaves in us a loss that is eternal and deep,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. He was “the foundation of us all, and the one person who kept us grounded and confident.”
Born Enrique Emilio Ros y Perez in Cienfuegos, Cuba, Ros was one of the leaders of the risky struggle against Castro in 1959 and 1960. The Christian Democratic Movement was part of the Democratic Revolutionary Movement, a broad anti-Castro coalition.
He had to escape to Miami and continued his activism from exile. Roig, a former director of Radio/TV Martí, said Ros was one of the militants who received him in Miami when Roig had to flee the island in 1960 because of his own anti-Castro activities.
Ros chronicled that early period of the resistance against Castro in many of his books. He had been working on his 20th book, on Cuban independence hero Antonio Maceo, when he passed away.
“Enrique was an excellent scholar and an outstanding human being,” said fellow historian Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami.
Roig, who also wrote a Cuba history book, recalled that Ros had access to key sources on the history of Cuba, from fellow militants in the fight against Castro to the Library of Congress. Ros also hosted a 1980s show on Radio Marti, a U.S. government station that broadcasts in Cuba.
Ros also was “the mentor for the political life of his daughter, who felt a profound devotion for her father,” Roig added. “He was the determining factor in setting the direction of her political life.”
Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged the support and guidance of her father, known to the family as Abu Kiki, in her statement. The nickname is Arabic for the father of Kiki, referring to his son Enrique “Henry” Ros.
“Today I can look at my life and the lives of my brother Henry and my dad’s adult grandchildren with joy and fulfillment. And I can do that because Abu Kiki worked hard to instill in us ageless ideals of fairness and doing always what was right,” she declared.
Ros was married for 65 years to Amanda Adato, the Cuban-born daughter of Jewish immigrants from Turkey who converted to Catholicism to marry Ros, but taught their two children to be proud of their Jewish heritage. In Miami, the couple founded and ran a successful freight forwarding business, Ros Forwarding.
Adato died in 2011 but lived long enough to see her daughter become the first Cuban-American and the first Hispanic woman elected to the U.S. Congress, in 1989. Ros-Lehtinen, a hardliner on Castro but ranked as an overall centrist by the National Journal, later rose to one of the most powerful positions in Congress: chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.