Cuba: Vilma Espin - revolutionary hero

Thursday, June 21, 2007 - 10:00

On June 18, Vilma Espin Guillois, legendary guerrilla fighter and leader of the Federation of Cuban Women, passed Away in Havana. An official note issued by the Cuban government is abridged below.

With profound sorrow, the leadership of our party and state announce that Companera Vilma Espin Guillois, a hero of the clandestine struggle, an outstanding combatant of the Rebel Army and untiring fighter for the emancipation of women and the defence of the rights of children, passed away in Havana after a long and painful illness.

Born in Santiago de Cuba on April 7, 1930, in a family that very early on cultivated the values and ethics that would distinguish her, Vilma from a young age assumed political and revolutionary positions, actively participating in student demonstrations following the coup d'etat carried out by Batista in 1952.

From that time, she was an inseparable collaborator of Frank Pais [a revolutionary leader of the urban underground movement], joining organisations founded by him in the struggle against tyranny, until the members of what was then called National Revolutionary Action joined the ranks of the July 26 Movement.

The doors of Vilma's home were opened to protect the comrades who attacked the Moncada Garrison [on July 26, 1953], persecuted by troops of the bloody oppressor regime, while she helped prepare a new stage of struggle and then finished a post-graduate course in the United States. She stopped in Mexico to meet with Fidel Castro and under the direct leadership of Pais, she took part in the armed uprising of Santiago de Cuba on November 30, 1956, in support of the Granma expeditionaries [Castro and 81 other revolutionaries including Che Guevara, who sailed to Cuba from Mexico to further the struggle but were largely crushed by the Cuban army on arrival]. Vilma converted her home following that important action into the headquarters of the revolutionary movement in Santiago de Cuba.

A member of the national leadership of the July 26 Movement, just before Pais was assassinated Vilma was named the provincial coordinator of the clandestine organisation in Oriente, a job that she carried out with particular skill and bravery while facing constant persecution. She joined the Rebel Army in June 1958, becoming the legendary guerrilla fighter of the Frank Pais Second Western Front.

Upon the triumph of the revolution in 1959, Vilma headed the unification of women's organisations and the formation of the Federation of Cuban Women. She continued this work until the last minute of her life.

Vilma was a member of the central committee of the Cuban Communist Party from its foundation in 1965 and was a full member of the political bureau from the third congress until 1991. She was a deputy to the National Assembly since its first legislature and a member of the Council of State since its constitution.

Vilma presided over the National Commission of Prevention and Social Attention from its creation and the Commission of Children and Youth, as well as the Commission on Women's Equal Rights of the National Assembly of People's Power.

Her name will be eternally linked to the most significant conquests of Cuban women in the revolution and as one of the most important fighters for the emancipation of women in our country and throughout the world.

From GLW issue 715

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