Raleigh-Durham Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST)

Revolutionary socialist youth in the US South

Vilma Espín: 1930-2007

Posted by raleighfist on June 20, 2007

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Comrade Vilma Espín Guillois, a leader in the Cuban Revolution and a major fighter for women’s liberation, died Monday in Havana. Comrade Espín was married to acting Cuban president Raúl Castro for over 48 years and was the mother of four children, including Mariela Castro Espín, the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education.

As a young woman, Sister Vilma became active in the struggle against the US-backed Batista dictatorship, having been radicalized by the example of the youth leader Frank País. In 1956 she joined the armed struggle to overthrow Fulgencio Batista and his regime, joining comrades like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Celia Sánchez, and brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro in the Sierra Maestra mountains. This three-year rebellion would lead to a people’s victory for the Cuban guerrillas on January 1, 1959.

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Vilma and Raúl back in the day.

Comrade Espín helped create the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas (Federation of Cuban Women) and served as its president from its founding in August 1960 until her death. She became known internationally as a fierce advocate for women’s liberation, and emphasized the need for socialist organization to counteract organized oppression and discrimination against women. As she stated at a International Women’s Day gathering in 1975: “Women are part of the people, and unless you talk about politics, you are never going to change anything.”

Comrade Vilma is survived by her husband Raúl Castro, four children, seven grandchildren, brother-in-law Fidel Castro, and the Cuban people. Sister Vilma, ¡Presente!

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