She was raised in Pilón,
a small town in the province
of Oriente, Cuba.
Her mother died when she was a child.
Her father, Manuel Sánchez,
came from an affluent family
and became a medical doctor.
He also raised Celia, her brothers and sisters.
Unlike most doctors in Cuba at that time,
Dr. Manuel Sánchez treated
those who could not pay.
Many of these were the ones who the cut sugar cane.
His patients suffered from having bad teeth,
to tuberculosis, to malnutrition,
to gunshot or knife wounds, or the effects of alcoholism.
He also delivered the babies.
Celia became her father’s assistant.
She leaned the names, illnesses, and problems of all the patients.
She joined her father making house calls
on horseback riding into the mountains.
She made sure that on the day of the Kings holiday,
that every child had a present.
This became her mission,
and the people loved her.
She liked to read the fashion magazines,
and wore bright red lipstick.
Even after the Revolution triumphed
she wore high heels with her fatigues.
Her father taught Celia about Cuban history
He taught her to appreciate the beauty of the mountains.
He taught her how to do deep-sea fishing.
At night, on the beech, with her friends, she ate her catch of the day under the stars.
Where she lived, the rural guards had absolute power.
They could take whatever they wanted.
They raped women,
and resistance was met with torture or death.
Celia had supported political campaigns
aimed at making meaningful change.
These efforts failed,
Then, Celia found out about the July 26 Movement.
She discovered that she needed to change
from being an independent woman,
into a disciplined revolutionary,
who strictly followed orders.
Initially her leader was Frank País.
But life in the city became increasingly dangerous
and government forces murdered País.
Sixty-thousand attended his funeral in Santiago.
These forces arrested Celia.
Her fate would have been almost certain torture and death.
But she saw an opportunity and escaped,
hiding in the cover of the marabu
Celia then joined Fidel and the revolutionaries in the Sierra Maestra.
She was a small woman,
but managed to march
for many miles each day in the mountains.
Then, she looked for the children who needed medical attention.
She spoke with the patents asking for their permission,
so revolutionary doctors could treat the young ones.
She also asked the revolutionary priests to preside over weddings.
The forces of repression had tremendous resources.
They used aircraft in a relentless effort
to find the revolutionaries.
But they failed.
Celia organized the construction of a small town in the mountains,
that served the needs of the revolution.
The town was hidden by a canopy of trees.
From this base, the revolution advanced.
Although the army of the people was outnumbered
and had fewer resources,
their spirit became more powerful
than those who were motivated by money.
One of her first acts as a leader of
the revolutionary Cuban government
was to airlift toys to the children of the Sierra.
She had not forgotten them.
When Cuba was attacked by mercenaries
supported by the United States at Playa Girón,
Celia played a prominent role
in defending the island.
She brought many of the campesinos
from the Sierra to Havana
where they learned skills
and improved their lives.
The women received new clothes,
makeup, and hairdos
at the beauty parlors.
Yes, this was a new day.
From the beginning Celia and the revolutionaries
understood the importance of health care and education.
Today, Cuba probably has more doctors and teachers
per capita than any other nation in the world.
We might consider that the United Nations
estimates that about 30,000 children die every day
due to preventable diseases.
Cuba has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
Celia Sánchez, along with Vilma Espin, and Haydee Santamaria
are examples of how women
have the potential to organize
to transform the world.
Today, more and more working people
see instability of the world.
Celia Sánchez taught us that we can work to build
a world where human needs are more important than profits.