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Vilma Espin, Cuba's unofficial First Lady
JUNE 15, 2007 TAGS:
She was born to a wealthy family in Santiago de Cuba during the dictatorship of Fulgenicio Batista. After becoming the first women in Cuba to graduate with a degree in chemical engineering, Vilma Espin went M.I.T. for a year for post-graduate study. Upon her return to Cuba, she became a leading female figure in the Cuban Revolution and a fierce advocate for women's rights. Vilma Espin, wife of Raul Castro, died on Monday in Havana at the age of 77.
With Fidel Castro's health in question, Espin's death comes at a crucial juncture in Cuba's history. The heroes of Cuba's socialist revolution of 1959 are approaching their last days, and the succession of power is unclear. Vilma Espin's death is deeply symbolic. She was revered throughout the country and essentially functioned as the state's first lady.
She met Raul Castro while the two were in the mountains of the Sierra Maestro fighting Batista's forces. The two married shortly after the revolution. Images of women foisting arms became emblematic of the inclusion of women in at all levels of society under Castro's rule. Although she was one of the few women in Castro's inner circle over the last few decades, she fought for women's rights both in Cuba and oversees. She founded the Federation of Cuban Women in 1960 and remained at its helm until her death.
Obit from the Miami Herald
Obit from the New York Times
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Christopher R. wrote on June 20, 2007 9:17am
'Thank you for "uncovering" Vilma. I never realized there was another half to Fidel, you only hear about him and his brother, Raul.' [Report Comment]