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Saul Landau reviews One Day in December on ZNet

One Day in December

One Day in December: Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution, Nancy Stout, Monthly Review Press, 2013

By Saul Landau

Sunday, January 27, 2013

“It’s about time,” I commented when I heard that Nancy Stout had written a biography of Celia Sanchez, a Cuban hero and a woman I had met several times around the filming I did with Fidel Castro in the 1960s and 70s. (FIDEL, on PBS in 1969, CASTRO, CUBA AND THE USA, CBS 1974 and THE UNCOMPROMISING REVOLUTION, PBS 1990)

In 1969, Fidel invited me to dine with him to share grief over the death of a mutual friend, Comandante Rene Vallejo, Fidel’s personal doctor, adviser and pal. I had met Vallejo on my first trip to Cuba when he directed Cuba’s Agrarian Reform Institute in Oriente Province, and I was being taken on a tour of revolutionary activity. Vallejo later arranged for me to do the 1668 filming with Castro.

I was in Cuba when Vallejo suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away, and I received a message from Celia Sanchez that Fidel wanted me to come to his Havana apartment to dine with him.

Celia greeted me and my family, and showed us the photos and art with which she had adorned the walls. She also had elegantly set the dinner table, in this modest Havana flat where Fidel sometimes passed the night.

She had also arranged the menu and then served the dinner, and inquired several times if everyone felt comfortable as we discussed the late Vallejo and his many virtues. Fidel was obviously shaken deeply by Vallejo’s sudden death as were Celia and I. She came from Media Luna, in the then province of Oriente, near Manzanillo where Vallejo had his gynecological practice, and they had both become active in the insurrection campaign of the 26th of July Movement.

Stout’s exploration of Celia’s life helps readers understand the nature of life in a small provincial town in the 1950s, and how revolutionaries had to hide from Batista’s police and simultaneously manage to integrate their times organizing insurrection with family and love life….

Read the entire review on ZNet

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