R.I.P Vilma Espin, Cuban Revolutionary Leader
NY Times Obituary
Vilma Espín, an idealistic socialite who fought alongside Fidel and Raúl Castro in the mountains of Cuba and later, as Raúl Castro’s wife, became a prominent advocate of women’s rights and a powerful member of the Cuban Communist Party, died Monday in Havana. She was 77.
As sister-in-law of Fidel Castro, who is divorced, Ms. Espín was Cuba’s unofficial first lady for decades, often appearing with him at official events.
Yesterday, thousands of Cubans filed past a large black and white photograph of Ms. Espín at the vast Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. Raúl Castro was in the receiving line. Fidel Castro did not attend. A floral arrangement was delivered in his name.
Ms. Espín was a revered figure of the revolution. The image of her and several other prominent women shouldering rifles and wearing combat fatigues during the rebel war helped change attitudes about the role of women in Cuba. She founded the Federation of Cuban Women in 1960, and remained president of the organization until her death. Although few women were allowed into Fidel Castro’s inner circle, women advanced in most other fields in Cuba, and Ms. Espín became an international figure in the struggle for women’s rights.
Speaking before an International Women’s Year conference in Mexico City in 1975, she said: “We have already obtained for our women everything that the conference is asking for. Women are part of the people, and unless you talk about politics, you are never going to change anything.”
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