Monday, June 18

Cuban revolutionary Vilma Espin dies at 77

Vilma Espin Guillois, the wife of acting President Raul Castro and one of the communist nation's most politically powerful women, died Monday, the Cuban government announced. She was 77.

As Raul Castro's wife, Espin was Cuba's de facto first lady for decades because Cuban leader Fidel Castro is divorced.

Espín, from Santiago de Cuba, was the daughter of a lawyer for the Bacardi family.[2] In the 1950s, she studied chemical engineering at M.I.T. in Boston before meeting revolutionary leader Frank País in Havana, the meeting led Espín to become a leader of the revolutionary movement in Oriente province.

Espín acted as a messenger between the movement and Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement who had relocated to Mexico in order to plan a future invasion. It was in Mexico that Espín met Raúl Castro. She then went on to assist the revolutionaries in the Sierra Maestra mountains after the 26th of July Movement's return to Cuba on the Granma yacht. She and Raúl married in January 1959

Espín has been President of the Federation of Cuban Women since its foundation in 1960. The organization is a recognized non-governmental organization which claims a membership of more than three and a half million women. Espin is also a member of the Council of State of Cuba, is a member of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Espin headed the Cuban Delegation to the First Latin American Congress on Women and Children in Chile in September 1959. She also headed the Cuban delegations to the Conferences on Women held in Mexico, Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing.

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