Asela de los Santos
Asela de los Santos (1929–2020) was born in Santiago de Cuba. Her father, José de los Santos, was a retired army lieutenant; her mother, Parmenia Tamayo, was a housewife. She entered the University of Oriente in 1949, shortly before student and faculty demonstrations won official recognition for the new institution....
Asela de los Santos (1929–2020) was born in Santiago de Cuba. Her father, José de los Santos, was a retired army lieutenant; her mother, Parmenia Tamayo, was a housewife. She entered the University of Oriente in 1949, shortly before student and faculty demonstrations won official recognition for the new institution. Studying there to become a teacher, she met Vilma Espín. The two became lifelong friends and comrades-in-arms.
De los Santos and Espín were among the students who immediately took to the streets to protest Fulgencio Batista’s US-backed military coup of March 10, 1952. In 1954 de los Santos graduated from the university and took a job teaching in nearby El Caney. That same year she began to work with Oriente Revolutionary Action, led by Frank País. In 1955 she joined the newly formed July 26 Revolutionary Movement, of which País became the central leader in Santiago and later its national action coordinator.
On November 30, 1956, de los Santos was among the July 26 Movement members who organized and carried out an armed action in Santiago de Cuba, which had been timed to coincide with the anticipated landing of the Granma. Soon after, de los Santos left her teaching job to devote herself full time to the July 26 Movement.
In March 1957 she worked alongside Celia Sánchez and Vilma Espín transporting the first fifty-one reinforcements for the Rebel Army from Santiago to Manzanillo, the staging point for the combatants joining the rebel front in the Sierra Maestra mountains. In July she was one of the July 26 Movement cadres who helped assure the success of the massive spontaneous outpouring that shut down the city of Santiago in response to the murder of Frank País.
In 1957–58 de los Santos made nine trips to Miami as a courier, arranging the transport of weapons, ammunition, money, and messages for the revolutionary movement in Cuba. In August 1958, on the proposal of Vilma Espín, de los Santos was transferred to the Rebel Army’s Frank País Second Eastern Front and placed in charge of the schools being organized there. Within months the Department of Education de los Santos headed had responsibility for four hundred primary schools as well as educational programs for the combatants, many of whom did not know how to read or write.
After the revolutionary victory of January 1, 1959, de los Santos remained in charge of schools in the area formerly governed by the Second Front. Later that year she accepted responsibility for education in all of Oriente province.
From 1960 to 1966 de los Santos worked alongside Vilma Espín in launching and building the Federation of Cuban Women. She served as organizational secretary of the FMC’s National Bureau, then as its general secretary. She is currently a member of the FMC’s National Committee and an adviser to its general secretary.
In 1965 de los Santos was a founding member of the Cuban Communist Party and served on its Central Committee from 1975 to 1991.
From 1966 to 1970, she was director of education for the Revolutionary Armed Forces, holding the rank of captain.