One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

by Nancy Stout
Foreword by Alice Walker

“I love this book. Biographer Nancy Stout is to be congratulated for her insightful, mature and sometimes droll exploration of a profoundly liberated, adventuresome and driven personality. I love the life of Celia Sánchez, a life that was singular, sui generis, and true to its time of revolution and change in Cuban society, but also archetypal in its impact and relevance to all times of social struggle and revolt, including this one.”
—Alice Walker, author, The Color Purple; winner, Pulitzer Prize & National Book Award

“Nancy Stout’s One Day in December, in addition to being a penetrating and startling biography, is a new generation’s view into a world previous generations have been locked out of with words like: ‘dictator,’ ‘communist,’ ‘anti-American,’ and ‘communist sympathizer/traitor.’ As we move into an era of multiculturalism, an era which continues to upset old racial paradigms, and an era of interconnectivity and globalism from which there is no turning back, Nancy Stout’s One Day in December takes on the importance of the work of Arundhati Roy or Noam Chomsky in its insistence on looking at facts rather than self serving capitalist and neocolonialist myth. And One Day in December is also a damn good read about a passionate, sensuous, and brilliant woman!”
—Sapphire, author of Push and The Kid

“Engrossing, endearing, and eloquent, this sympathetic and superbly crafted portrait of the ‘True Flower of the Revolution’ unfolds in magnificent detail. Nancy Stout leaves us breathless in admiration for this fearless revolutionary—a brilliant organizer, recruiter, and Fidel Castro’s most precious aide. So intimate is Stout’s well-informed tour de force that the description of Sánchez’s death brings the reader to tears, inspired by a deep sense of love and loss.”
—Christopher P. Baker, author, Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba, the Moon Cuba Handbook, and Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles

“Nancy Stout has accomplished a genuine tour de force with One Day in December. In this riveting and eloquent portrait, Celia Sánchez finally emerges as a major star in Cuba’s revolutionary drama: a political animal, a management consultant, a historian, and of course, a confidante to Fidel Castro. Thrust into the arena of clandestine politics in the 1950s, Celia spent the next two decades of her life helping to institutionalize the Cuban revolution. Her legacy, especially for women and girls’ education and health, and as the chief archivist of the insurgency, comes alive in Stout’s exhaustively researched biography.”—Julia Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow and Director, Latin America Studies and Global Brazil Initiative, Council on Foreign Relations

“This excellent book tells us about Celia Sánchez, an early leader of the Cuban Revolution and a fascinating character. From Oriente province, she helped organize the 26th of July forces there and plan Fidel’s landing in January of 1956. She soon joined him in the mountains and became not only a leader of the Revolution but his ‘closest companion.’ That they were intimate seems clear but it was a sui generis relationship. As Nancy Stout suggests, ‘he was free to come and go.’ And he certainly had relationships with other women. As Stout movingly describes her, Celia was totally devoted to Fidel and to the Cuban Revolution. And she loved and was loved by the Cuban people. I was in Havana at the time of her death in January of 1980 and well remember the deep sadness it occasioned.”
—Wayne S. Smith, senior fellow and director of the Cuba Project, Center for International Policy; former head, U.S. Interests Section in Havana

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.

Photos courtesy of the Oficina de Asuntos Históricos, Cuba.

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