Jose Lopez Sainz came from a wealthy Cuban family but readily exchanged the fertile meadows of his hometown of Placetas for a prison cell under the Batista dictatorship and then exile abroad under the Castro dictatorship.
Lopez Sainz died May 1 in Miami at 79 after a lengthy battle with a pulmonary ailment.
“His parents migrated from Spain to Cuba and made a fortune through hard work. There were four brothers, all cattle ranchers,” his wife, Elvira Lopez, told El Nuevo Herald.
Lopez Sainz studied at the Marist School in the city of Cienfuegos, which at the time provided residency boys from the surrounding region. That’s where he learned the importance of loving the fatherland and defending democracy.
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As the Fidel Castro regime turned toward totalitarianism, Lopez Sainz began to conspire against it and, in 1960, he was condemned to five years in prison.
“During the Bay of Pigs invasion Jose was already in the Isle of Pines prison, building No. 4, prisoner number 25788,” said his widow. “At the time, the prison officials put dynamite all around the prison and threatened to blow up everyone if the attackers won.”
The family went into exile in 1966, first living in New Jersey and after 1975 in Miami, although Lopez Sainz never stopped working “for the freedom of Cuba,” she added.
He served two terms in U.S. prisons for refusing the testify in court against members of the anti-Castro group Omega 7.
“Even though they were a very wealthy family they were very simple people,” his wife said. “Very humble boys who never boasted about their money, even after they went into exile.”
Lopez Sainz is survived by three children.
A Mass will be at 5 p.m. Friday at St. Brendan’s Church, 8725 SW 32nd St., Miami.
Follow Mario J. Pentón on Twitter: @mariojose_cuba