Celia Sánchez

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Celia Sánchez
Born(1920-05-09)May 9, 1920
DiedJanuary 11, 1980(1980-01-11) (aged 59)

Celia Sánchez Manduley (May 9, 1920 – January 11, 1980) was a Cuban revolutionary, politician, researcher and archivist. She was a key member of the Cuban Revolution[1] and a close colleague of Fidel Castro.[2][3]


Early life[edit]

Sánchez with Fidel Castro

Sánchez was born in Media Luna,[4]: 681  Oriente, Cuba, but eventually moved to Pilón, Cuba.[3] Her father, Dr. Manuel Sánchez, was a doctor, and she grew up in relative affluence.[1] Her mother, Acacia, died early in her childhood. At age six she started suffering with neurosis.[3] She was one of eight children.[3] She was well-educated but never attended university.[3] After high school, Sánchez continuously helped with her father's practice until she began to focus on the Cuban Revolution alongside Fidel Castro.[3] Her father's occupation as a doctor and working with him, provided her with a cover and connections to become a discreet member of the 26th of July Movement.[1]

Cuban Revolution[edit]

The Cuban Revolution was a movement organized to overthrow Fulgencio Batista. Castro received help from Argentinian Che Guevara as well as Celia Sánchez, Frank País, and the Cuban people.[5] Sánchez was a founder of the Cuban revolution and considered to be a heroine[6] who would, later on, continue to serve in office as secretary to the presidency of the Council of Ministers and in the Department of Services of the Council of State.[1]

Symbol of Cuba's appreciation to Celia Sanchez Manduley. Created 10 years after her death. 1990.

Sánchez joined the struggle against the Batista government following the coup of March 10, 1952. She was the founder of the 26th of July Movement in Manzanillo.[4]: 681  She started as an arms runner, later began working as a combatant in the Cuban Revolution.[7] She was considered to be the first female guerilla of the Sierra Maestra.[7] With her hard work within the movement, she became the first woman to join the guerilla and eventually become a part of the rebel army's general staff.[1] Sánchez organized and planned the landing of the Granma as well as supplying the army with reinforcements.[1] She worked alongside Frank Pais and Haydee Santamaria. Together with Frank País, she was one of the first women to assemble a combat squad.[8] She made arrangements throughout the southwest coast region of Cuba for the Granma landing, and was responsible for organizing reinforcements once the revolutionaries landed.[4]: 682  In 1957, she became the first woman to join the guerrilla army and served as a messenger.[1] She would place telegrams inside a butterfly flower, so the messages remained secret. As a member of the general staff of the Rebel Army she supplied Che Guevara and others with weapons and occasionally with food and medical supplies.[9]

Post-revolution years[edit]

During the mid to late 1960s, René Vallejo, Castro's physician since 1958,[10] and Sanchez became the Cuban leader's two closest companions.[10] Sánchez was bestowed with the title of Secretary to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers[11] and served in the Department of Services of the Council of State until her death of lung cancer in 1980.[10]

Sánchez archived many documents, letters and notes of the revolution, leading to the creation in 1964 of Oficina de Asuntos Históricos del Consejo de Estado, an institution for the preservation of historical documents.[12] The historical documents within the institution included interviews from soldiers who fought in the guerrilla as well as letters, writings and photos. This collections of primary sources has served as the country's official archive about the Cuban Revolution. By the Cuban people, the archive has been known as el fondo de Celia.[13]


Celia Sánchez died of lung cancer on 11 January 1980 during a time of political and economic unrest; her legacy is embedded in the Cuban national identity.[7]


Following the death of Celia Sánchez, Fidel Castro commemorated her life by proclaiming her symbol to the Revolution.[7] He stated in a speech outside the hospital dedicated to her:

I truly believe that this is the best form of tribute to pay to someone who dedicated herself to duty, without resting for a moment, without forgetting one single detail; and I believe, sincerely, that this is the most heartfelt, profound and revolutionary homage that one can give to a compatriot who gave her life for the Revolution.

Fidel Castro on Sánchez[14]

Many commemorate her crucial role in the revolution by putting her name on schools, hospitals, and various community centers, from Cuba to Zimbabwe.[13] People of Manzanillo use the altar of the Caridad del Cobra Virgin as a marriage altar signifying her dedication to the Cuban Revolution.[13] The monument is as if Celia Sánchez is wearing a dress, stiff and enormous, like the jeweled dress worn by the Caridad Virgin.[13]

A memorial to and mausoleum for Celia Sanchez was built in Parque Lenin. However, As of November 2014 the remains of Celia Sanchez are interred in the Colon Cemetery, Havana. The Celia Sánchez Memorial in Manzanillo also honors her name, and her face appears in the watermark on Cuban peso banknotes. Cuba continues to honor Sánchez achievements, ten years after her death, they created a coin with the value of 10 pesos. (1990)

Furthermore, Celia's memory has had a large impact far beyond the remembrance of one woman in the Cuban Revolution but rather encompasses the standards of the new Cuban national identity.[7] Celia Sánchez paved the way for the idealism for Cuba's new woman by showing women's capabilities in the leadership, care taking and physical labor.[7] Simplicity, modesty, femininity, selflessness, austerity and devotion are some of the key attributes of Celia Sánchez; however, these personal virtues represent much more than references to a deceased individual, but rather represents the embodiment of Cuba's new woman.[7] Celia Sánchez revealed to the Cuban society that women are capable of balancing physical labor with care taking, strength with femininity and leadership with modesty which was a nuance during a time of gender division.[7]

Several varieties of Cuban banknotes depict Celia Sánchez as a watermark security feature.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Becker, Marc (2017). Twentieth-Century Latin American Revolutions. London: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-4422-6588-2.
  2. ^ Pressly, Linda (December 11, 2011). "BBC News - Celia Sanchez: Was she Castro's lover?". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Stout, Nancy (2013). One day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 978-1-58367-319-5. OCLC 830324493.[page needed]
  4. ^ a b c Ramonet, Ignacio, Fidel Castro: My Life. Penguin Books: 2007.
  5. ^ "Cuban Revolution - The rise of Castro and the outbreak of revolution". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  6. ^ Maloof, Judy, 1957- (1999). Voices of resistance : testimonies of Cuban and Chilean women. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-4813-7. OCLC 900344742.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Thomas-Woodard, Tiffany A. (2003). "Towards the Gates of Eternity: Celia Sanchez Manduley and the Creation of Cuba's New Woman". Cuban Studies. University of Pittsburgh Press. 34: 154–180. doi:10.1353/cub.2004.0030. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  8. ^ Celia Sánchez, pg.76 by Richard Haney, John Van Houten Dippel, Algora, 2005
  9. ^ Guevara, Ernesto, "Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War", p.312, Harper Perennial, 2006
  10. ^ a b c The Socialist Register 1989, NOTES ON THE CUBAN REVOLUTION, Saul Landau, pg. 296
  11. ^ Fidel Castro, leader of communist Cuba, pg. 53, Compass Point Books, 2006
  12. ^ Saborit Alfonso, Amaya. "Celia Sánchez Manduley: se equivoca la muerte..." Granma. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  13. ^ a b c d Stout, Nancy (2013). One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press. pp. 440, 441. ISBN 978-1583673171. In the years following Celia's death, special medals and commemorative stamps were issued with her image; her portrait is the watermark on several pieces of the country's currency; a Spanish ballet was named for her; her name is on schools, hospitals, and various community centers, from Cuba to Zimbabwe." "People of Manzanillo commonly use the monument as a marriage altar.
  14. ^ Castro, Fidel (January 16, 1981). "Fidel en la inauguración del Hospital Celia Sánchez Manduley". Project Muse. University of Pittsburgh Press. doi:10.1353/cub.2004.0030. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  15. ^ "P-117".

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