One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

Synopsis

Celia Sánchez is the missing actor of the Cuban Revolution. Although not as well known in the English-speaking world as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Sánchez played a pivotal role in launching the revolution and administering the revolutionary state. She joined the clandestine 26th of July Movement and went on to choose the landing site of the Granma and fight with the rebels in the Sierra Maestra. She collected the documents that would form the official archives of the revolution, and, after its victory, launched numerous projects that enriched the lives of many Cubans, from parks to literacy programs to helping develop the Cohiba cigar brand. All the while, she maintained a close relationship with Fidel Castro that lasted until her death in 1980.

The product of ten years of original research, this biography draws on interviews with Sánchez's friends, family, and comrades in the rebel army, along with countless letters and documents. Biographer Nancy Stout was initially barred from the official archives, but, in a remarkable twist, was granted access by Fidel Castro himself, impressed as he was with Stout's project and aware that Sánchez deserved a worthy biography. This is the extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman who exemplified the very best values of the Cuban Revolution: selfless dedication to the people, courage in the face of grave danger, and the desire to transform society.

Excerpt

by Alice Walker

NOTHING MAKES ME MORE HOPEFUL than discovering another human being to admire. My wonder at the life of Celia Sánchez, a revolutionary Cuban woman virtually unknown to Americans, has left me almost speechless. In hindsight, loving and admiring her was bound to happen, once I knew her story. Like Frida Kahlo, Zora Neale Hurston, Rosa Luxemburg, Agnes Smedley, Fannie Lou Hamer, Josephine Baker, Harriet Tubman, or Aung San Suu Kyi, Celia Sánchez was that extraordinary expression of life that can, every so often, give humanity a very good name.

A third of a century ago I saw a photograph of Celia taken twenty years before, just after she and her fellow revolutionaries became the official Cuban government. She was in the uniform of the Cuban rebel army, thin as a rail, her dark hair cut very short. Her face was gray and drawn, and she was (I believe) smoking a cigarette. Knowing her life story now more fully, I realize that lung cancer would contribute to her early death, which came close to the time I saw that picture.

I SAT DOWN TO READ One Day in December with little notion that it would affect me so deeply. I read it through, then immediately turned to the first page and read the entire more than four-hundredpage manuscript again. I had the sensation I experienced the first time I saw a Frida Kahlo painting, probably the self-portrait of . . .

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