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Dean on the South Road

The Celia Sanchez Tribute Ride

By Dr. Karine Langley / Posted July 22, 2014

 

1-IMG_6189There is something magical and freeing about taking a bicycle vacation. The Celia Sanchez tribute ride is a fully supported 14-day bicycle journey in the southern regions of Cuba where you will discover the real Cuba, well away from the powder white beaches of Varadero and resorts. Here you will stay in small hotels in unheralded towns like Bayamo or Manzanillo, Las Tunas, in mountain resorts like El Salton and tour the Sierra Maestra mountains.

I did the tour last year and was enchanted by the beauty of the people and the lifestyle in the smaller towns.  Manzanillo has a divided bike lane but unlike urban lanes, this is mainly to separate cyclists from the horse drawn carts. Most people in Cuba have bicycles or walk. The bicycle in Cuba is a way of life. We stopped for lunches in small local restaurants or cafes on the side of the road. The scenery was second to none.

Discovering Celia

The pathway to the mountain camp, where the troops hid while readying to advance down out of the mountains. in the picture is Airelis Oliva, a Cuban cyclist from the city of Las Tunas.

The pathway to the mountain camp, where the troops hid while
readying to advance down out of the mountains. in the picture
is Airelis Oliva, a Cuban cyclist from the city of Las Tunas.

It was during my tour that I discovered Celia Sanchez. In many ways she was the architect of the Cuban revolution. The revolution began with the July 26th movement in Santiago de Cuba, southern Cuba. Celia was a confidante of  Frank Pais,  the young genius who organized the students and the people of Santiago to take a stand against the oppression of Batista.

Celia Sanchez, the daughter of the local doctor in Pilon, was a former beauty queen. Her father, Dr. Sanchez, was both a dentist and a doctor chose to practice in sugarcane country to care for the poor. Celia often managed his practice  and had first hand contact with the people of the south.  She became well known among the poor famers and would have raffles and distribute shoes to them. She was 35 years of age when Frank Pais asked her to be part of a plot to overthrow Batista who had come to power in 1952 by a coup d’etat. Batista had ruled Cuba in the 1930s and was living in exile in the USA until re- taking power in 1952.

From her base in Manzanillo Celia  worked with Frank Pais and among other things obtained maps of the coastline to enable Fidel and his boat the Gramma to land. She successfully hid revolutionaries in a thicket of maribou ( a bush like plant with vicious thorns). She established a spy network of young women who would pass messages undetected to leaders by riding in fancy American cars with their ‘boyfriends’. She continued to befriend the poor; she and Fidel adopted numerous orphans of the revolution and established a school where they were taught how to read and write.
Dean on the South RoadAfter the revolution, she was responsible to start the tourist industry by opening up the hitherto private beaches of Varadero and the hunting and fishing grounds in the west coast.

 

On the trip
I love this region and invite other cyclists to join me on a ride through the area.  In this 14-day trip, we will  ride in her footsteps and in the footstep of the farmers’ army that eventually overthrew Batista and his forces. We will see the Moncada barracks in Santiago where the revolutionaries lost their first encounter with the Batista army. Visit the command post that Fidel had in the mountains. Celia delivered supplies and young recruits to them and lived with them as a guerrilla for months.

As we visit the towns of Manzanillo, Pilon and ride along the south roads I will provide materials the day before so that you can understand the significance of the places we ride through.

Celia Sanchez despite her ardour and accomplishments is a little known figure today. She risked her life, as did others to support a new government and created the tourism industry, influenced the health care policies, education of the modern day Cuba. She kept Fidel, more prone to give speeches than action on track and cooled the impulsivity of Chẽ Guevara. She was highly respected among the fighters and beloved, yet there are no portraits of her hanging in the squares, or airports or schools named after her.

That she did so much in a very macho society is a tribute to her. It is for this reason that this ride is a tribute to her – a tribute to an idealistic and passionate woman who gave up her life of comfort and ease for the ideals of a new country that we know as Cuba. Her emblem is the mariposa, the unassuming yet beautiful national flower of Cuba.

1-IMG_6206The ride will enable you to ride the beautiful roads and see the breathtaking vistas that were so dear to her. More than a ride, you will learn about this forgotten aspect of Cuban history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More details please contact either:-

Ride leader Dr. Karine Langley  kmslangley@gmail.com

Or

Ride director Peter Marshall peter@canbicuba.com

Web address www.CanBiCuba.com

Dr. Karine Langley

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