Haydée Santamaría is a fundamental leader of the Cuban Revolution. She and Melba Hernandez were the two women who participated in the assault on the Moncada Army Barracks on July 26, 1953. Led by Fidel Castro, the assault was a military failure, but it is credited as the spark that lit the flame of the Cuban Revolution.
Haydée survived prison and was a founder of the 26th of July Movement, which led the Cuban Revolution to victory in 1959. She founded and directed, “La Casa de las Américas”, which became the most important cultural institution in Latin America. Haydée was also an original member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.
"The transformation after Moncada was total. One continues be the same person, we could all continue being the same people that were full of passion, and we could, one can continue to be passionate. But the transformation was great, it was so much that if we had not made a series of ideas and critical approaches, it would have been difficult to continue living or at least to remain normal. It became clear to us that the problem was not to change a human being, the problem was to change the system, but also that if we had not set out to change human beings, perhaps the system would not have been changed. [...] Then we had moments when we did not know what had happened to Fidel, and we really wanted to disappear. We were there with such assurance that if Fidel lived, Moncada lived, that if Fidel lived, there would be many Moncadas."
From the book, “Haydée habla del Moncada” [Haydée Speaks About Moncada] Casa de las Américas, 1985
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