Cubans remember today Celia Sánchez Manduley, Heroine of the Cuban Revolution, born on May 9, 1920, in Manzanillo, former Oriente province, who devoted all her life to the welfare of the Cuban people, the underground struggle, and la Sierra Maestra until her death in 1980.
Celia was a simple woman. She liked outdoor activities, deep sea fishing, picnics and flowers. Every Christmas she bought toys in bulk to give to children of poor parents. This helped to provide a cover for all the revolutionary things that she did. She was very secretive. She liked sewing and learned how to make patterns.
When Fulgencio Batista took power in Cuba for the second time following a coup in 1952, Sanchez -like millions of Cubans- was outraged. She was convinced it would take violence to overthrow his dictatorship, and began to organize resistance.
In July 1953, Fidel Castro made his first attempt to topple Batista, and attacked the Moncada barracks in Santiago. Sanchez joined July 26th Movement led by Fidel.
Fidel understood and appreciated that Celia’s great political and revolutionary strength lay in her organizational capacity, as well as her sacrifice and commitment. She was the first female guerrilla.
Celia worked with Frank Pais before he was murdered. She set up a network of people to plan the return of Fidel to Cuba. She was also assigned to get Fidel’s men out of the region after they landed. She talked to local farmers, most of whom were against Batista.
Celia founded an induction center to help assemble, train and house the new recruits to the rebel army. She also found an inconspicuous way to get them food. She was preparing to go into the mountains with the guerrillas when Frank Pais got arrested. She had to take over Frank’s work.
Celia, the wanted woman
By 1957, Celia Sanchez was the country’s most-wanted woman. When it became too dangerous for her to remain on the plains, she joined Castro up in the Sierra Maestra. She considered her time in the Sierra Maestra to be the best time of her life.
Celia and Fidel worked closely together long before they ever met. When they met they became inseparable until the day of her death. They had a thriving revolutionary partnership, both devoting their lives to freeing the Cuban people.
Celia kept records of almost everything those around her did during the Revolution. She said that being a guerrilla was the best time of her life. She was responsible for making sure that the rebels had enough food. She set up a telephone system so that Fidel could communicate to the front from his headquarters, and set up a chain of couriers.
Celia became an essential Fidel Castro’s partner in leading the Cuban Revolution. She side-by-side the Commander in Chief addressing those social problems demanding urgent solutions.
Celia left an example to follow, deeds to repeat, dreams to have them come true.