Osvaldo Soto is the father of our Chief Judge Bertilla Soto. But in his own right, he was a trailblazer, a hero who fought communism for freedom in his home country, an immigrant success story, and a legal and community leader.
Here is the CABA announcement.
Dear Members and the Cuban-American community,
It is with a heavy heart that CABA mourns the loss of its Past President, Osvaldo Soto, who passed away on January 9, 2021. Osvaldo N. Soto, Esq. was one of the founding members of the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) and was its fourth President. For more than four decades he served as a pivotal figure for CABA and the Cuban-American exile community as a whole. He furthered CABA’s mission and goals while creating long-lasting friendships and a warm sense of collegial family among our organization.
Osvaldo was the son of Antonio Soto and Maria Teresa Polo, descended from a prominent Cuban family. He graduated from La Universidad de la Havana as an attorney at the young age of twenty-one. He worked both in the family business and as an attorney. One of his first legal positions was that of public defender. Osvaldo established his career and family in Havana, where he remained until Fidel Castro’s regime confiscated all his family’s businesses, his law practice, and their personal and real property in 1960. Like many Cubans at the time, Osvaldo and his young family made the difficult decision to flee to the United States, seeking freedom and refuge from the ongoing political crisis in Cuba. With his wife, Bertila Areces Soto, and his three sons, Osvaldo, Eduardo and Rigoberto, he moved to Miami, Florida.
Osvaldo’s commitment to his belief in a free and democratic Cuba never wavered. When asked to join training for covert operations in the fight for Cuba’s independence from Castro’s dictatorship and communism, he accepted without hesitation. His deep-rooted belief in democracy and dedication to causes close to his heart, would be evident in both this undertaking and in the meaningful work he embarked upon thereafter.
In honoring his commitment, he ultimately joined La Brigada Especial, located at an American Army training camp in New Orleans. Louisiana. During his training, in April of 1961, Osvaldo was asked to write a Code of Occupation, intended to be a body of laws for the areas the Brigade would occupy after the invasion. Shortly thereafter, with a still incomplete Code and minimal training, Osvaldo and La Brigada Especial left New Orleans to join others already headed to Cuba’s shores. Despite their best efforts to disembark near Guantanamo City, the Cuban government had received intelligence on their preparations and it was never safe for them to do so. Their course was moved to Playa Giron. Notwithstanding weak preparation, Osvaldo bravely joined fellow Cuban laborers, businessmen, students, attorneys and laypeople in heartfelt efforts toward liberating Cuba from tyrannical rule. But upon arriving at Playa Giron, he and his cohort could see the smoldering ships from their friends among the Brigada 2506. After several days of waiting for further instructions and support which never arrived, they were disappointedly removed from their vessel. Several weeks later, Osvaldo returned to Miami unrecognizable to his family - sunburned and 40 pounds thinner. His resolve in advocacy of a free and democratic Cuba, as well as his goal for professional advancement in the United States, nonetheless continued. Both were evident in the work he undertook, the causes he supported, and the lessons that he taught us all.
After the Bay of Pigs invasion, Osvaldo moved on to work in Riverton, Wyoming. He later moved to Longwood College in Virginia, where he and his wife welcomed their daughter, Bertila Soto – a proud CABA member who has gone on to become the first female and first Hispanic Chief Judge in the history of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. After a short time, Osvaldo began teaching first as an assistant, then as an associate and finally as a full professor at Iowa State University, where he published various books.
In 1975, after completing the Cuban-American Lawyers Program, Osvaldo sat for the Florida Bar and thereafter worked as an attorney and in service to various social interest organizations in the Miami community. Although he only physically returned to Cuba once, when he went to Guantanamo City with CABA to assist exiles in the naval base, he returned to Cuba many times in his dreams with hopes of restoring Cuba to a free and democratic country. A proud American citizen, Osvaldo equally championed both the liberty of Cuba and equal rights for his Cuban-American community in the United States.
Over the years, CABA’s leadership and its members have recognized Osvaldo Soto in many ways, including with the Founder’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019. His advocacy, support, and advancement for causes like diversity in the judiciary and in the legal profession have molded and shaped the direction of our organization for the better, and the impact that he left on our community has forever changed the lives of many. He was beloved among his friends, revered among CABA’s membership and the legal community, and continued to be an advocate for our organization and for the causes that CABA undertakes. We are grateful for his years of service, but above all else, we are so very grateful for his continued friendship among our CABA family.
Osvaldo N. Soto’s enduring legacy lives on with his wife, Bertila Areces Soto, his sister Esther Leyes, his children, Osvaldo Soto, Rigaberto Soto, Eduardo Soto, The Honorable Bertila Soto, their spouses, and his grandchildren, John Paul Soto, Christopher Soto, Bily Fernandez, Anthony Soto, Alexandra Soto, Nicholas Soto, Thomas Soto, Andres Soto, Natalia Soto, Jose Luis Soto, and his great-grandchildren.
Osvaldo N. Soto, Esq. was a scholar, a patriot, and a true friend. He will be missed by all. Que en paz descanse.