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Vilma Espín

Roadsign of Vilma Espin as a young woman

Born 7 April 1930(1930-04-07)
Died 18 June 2007 (aged 77)
Spouse(s) Raúl Castro
Relations Fidel Castro (brother-in-law)
Jose Espín (father)
Margarita Guillois (mother)
Nilsa Espín (sister)
Iván Espín (brother)
Sonia Espín (sister)
José Espín (brother)
Children Deborah Castro Espín
Mariela Castro Espín
Nilsa Castro Espín
Alejandro Castro Espín
Military service
Awards Lenin Peace Prize 1977-78

Vilma Lucila Espín Guillois (April 7, 1930 - June 18, 2007) was a former Cuban chemical engineer and revolutionary who was married to Raúl Castro, the current Cuban President and brother to Former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Espín had four children (Deborah - married to Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja -, Mariela, Nilsa and Alejandro Castro Espín) and seven grandchildren. Her daughter, Mariela Castro, currently heads the Cuban National Center for Sex Education. Espín was often described as "Cuba's First Lady".[1]


Role in the Cuban revolution

Espín, from Santiago de Cuba, was the daughter of a lawyer for the Bacardi family, Jose Espín and wife Margarita Guillois.[2] She had four siblings, Nilsa, Iván, Sonia and José. In the 1950s, she studied chemical engineering at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts 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, which had been 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.[3]

Role in the Cuban government

Espín was President of the Federation of Cuban Women from its foundation in 1960 until her death. The organization is a recognized non-government organization which claims a membership of more than three and a half million women, and is generally recognised as a Quango or GONGO. Espín was also a member of the Council of State of Cuba, as well as a member of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1980 to 1991.

Espín 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.


Espín died in Havana at 4:14 p.m. EDT on June 18, 2007, following a long illness.[4] An official mourning-period was declared from 8 p.m. on June 18 until 10 p.m. on June 19. Her body was cremated, and her remains rest in the "II Frente Frank País" Mausoleum.



  1. ^ Raul Castro's wife rumored to be seriously ill McClatchy Newspapers. Sep. 15, 2006. Accessed 8th October 2006.
  2. ^ Richard Gott. Cuba, a new history p160.
  3. ^ On this day Time Magazine. Feb. 9, 2006. Accessed 8th October 2006.


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