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Celia Sánchez Manduley (1920–1980) is famous for her role in the Cuban revolution. Clad in her military fatigues, this “first female guerrilla of the Sierra Maestra” is seen in many photographs alongside Fidel Castro. Sánchez joined the movement in her early thirties, initially as an arms runner and later as a combatant. She was one of Castro’s closest confidants, perhaps lover, and went on to serve as a high-ranking government official and international ambassador. Since her death, Sánchez has been revered as a national icon, cultivated and guarded by the Cuban government. With almost unprecedented access to Sánchez’s papers, including a personal diary, and firsthand interviews with family members, Tiffany A. Sippial presents the first critical study of a notoriously private and self-abnegating woman who yet exists as an enduring symbol of revolutionary ideals.
Sippial reveals the scope and depth of Sánchez’s power and influence within the Cuban revolution, as well as her struggles with violence, her political development, and the sacrifices required by her status as a leader and “New Woman.” Using the tools of feminist biography, cultural history, and the politics of memory, Sippial reveals how Sánchez strategically crafted her own legacy within a history still dominated by bearded men in fatigues.
“This beautifully written biography of Celia Sánchez Manduley—perhaps the Cuban Revolution's least recognized and most important leader—is both a brilliant piece of scholarship and an engrossing story that brings the woman, time, place, and revolutionary process alive. Those steeped in the revolution and those new to it will better understand why it mattered and will continue to matter.”—Eric Selbin, author of Revolution, Resistance, and Rebellion: The Power of Story
“In this unprecedented critical biography, Sippial opens a window onto the consciousness of Celia Sánchez Manduley, possibly the Cuban Revolution's staunchest loyalist and one of Fidel Castro's primary confidantes. Sánchez emerges as a savvy architect of the post-1959 revolutionary regime who attempted to limit its authoritarian contradictions. That Sippial is one of very few to ever gain access to the state's official historical archive since Sánchez inaugurated it in 1964 alone makes this book mandatory reading for anyone interested in learning how revolutionary Cuba became Communist Cuba in less than two decades."—Lillian Guerra, author of Visions of Power
“A nuanced and sensitively written biography, drawing on exciting new sources, of one of the most important and yet still poorly understood figures of the Cuban Revolution. Celia Sánchez Manduley provides a rich, multilayered account of Sánchez’s life and legacy, while raising important questions about feminist biography and the politics of memory.”—Michelle Chase, author of Revolution within the Revolution
“I congratulate Tiffany Sippial for her drive, persistence, and assiduous research. Tapping a wealth of primary and secondary sources and her own personal forays in Cuba, she has produced this ambitious and well-written book on an emblematic—and yet very private and enigmatic—Cuban woman of the revolutionary period.”—Jean Stubbs, author of Tobacco on the Periphery