Vilma Espín, a symbol of revolutionary activism

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Vilma Espín, born April 7th, 1930, the Cuban Revolutionary while studying chemical engineering in her home country, she got involved in the student activist movement – organizing a resistance to the 1952 coup led by Fulgencio Batista that put a stop to the then left-wing party from winning the election in Cuba. The turbulence and tyranny in Cuban society soon accelerated, with Batista massacring the Cuban people and assassinating innocent people.

On June 1956, Vilma went to Mexico to meet with Fidel Castro after doing the initial underground work to set up the 26th of July Movement. She offered up her home back in Santiago for organizing the armed uprising of November 30th whilst she was still a student. Her home later became the headquarters of the movement in the region.

The uprising of the 26th of July Movement soon took place against the Batista government and their allies in the Mafia and the US ruling class. Vilma Espín readily left for her homeland to fight along with the guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra – and struggle for a socialist revolution against the poverty, exploitation, chauvinism and racial discrimination that she had been raised around.

During the period of armed struggle, Vilma Espín was a part of the Mariana Grajales Women’s Platoon named after the Cuban patriot known as the – “mother of the country”. Mariana Grajales Cuello had fought for a independent Cuba free from slavery and an end to women’s oppression decades previously.

When the Revolution eventually triumphed in 1959, Vilma Espín had built up the early foundations of the Federation of Cuban Women. The Organization would work tirelessly to wither away at the discrimination women faced within Cuban society, and to mobilize around the economic changes that marginalized women from many parts of life on the island.

During 1961, the Federation of Cuban Women helped open up state-funded daycare facilities – in order to take the pressure of working mothers and free them up to contribute to the new Cuban society.

Vilma Espín, in one of her early speeches, explained what the Cuban Revolution meant for women in the new context:

“What did the triumphant revolution offer our women? A new life, filled with possibilities and prospects, in which their deepest dreams might become reality. A society in which that which most precious to us all – our children’s future – would be assured. A different society, where the people would be masters and mistresses of their own destiny, where they would exert their rights fully, where new values would come into being. The triumph offered our women the opportunity to study and to work, it offered them economic security, thereby putting an end to oppression and hardship. It opened prospects of health care, of social security. For women, the revolution meant the opportunity to attain human dignity.”

Vilma Espin left a legacy of activism and tireless struggle against injustice, and of permanent renewing spirit.

Jorge Luis Lora Moran

Webmaster Jorge Luis Lora

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