Vilma Espín

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This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Espín and the second or maternal family name is Guillois.
Vilma Espín
Roadsign of Vilma Espín as a young woman
Personal details
Born Vilma Lucila Espín Guillois
(1930-04-07)7 April 1930
Santiago de Cuba
Died 18 June 2007(2007-06-18) (aged 77)
Havana, Cuba
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
Awards Lenin Peace Prize 1977-78

Vilma Lucila Espín Guillois (April 7, 1930 – June 18, 2007) was a Cuban revolutionary, feminist, and chemical engineer. She was married to Raúl Castro, the current Cuban President, who is the 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, and her son, Alejandro Castro Espín, is a Colonel in the Ministry of Interior. Espín was often described as "Cuba's First Lady".[1]

Early life[edit]

Vilma Espín Guillois was born on April 7, 1930, in Santiago de Cuba[2] the daughter of a lawyer for the Bacardi family, Jose Espín and wife Margarita Guillois introduced by Paul Lafargue who was born in Santiago de Cuba.[3] She had four siblings, Nilsa, Iván, Sonia and José.[3] In the 1950s, she studied chemical engineering at Universidad de Oriente, Santiago de Cuba (one of the first women in Cuba to study this subject),[2] and post-graduate studies at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[2]

Role in the Cuban revolution[edit]

Returning home, she became involved with the opposition to the dictator Fulgencio Batista.[2] A meeting with revolutionary leader Frank País led her 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.[4]

Role in the Cuban government[edit]

Espín was President of the Federation of Cuban Women from its foundation in 1960 until her death. The organization is a recognized[citation needed] 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.[5] 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. ^ a b c d New York Times Jun 20, 2007 Vilma Espín, Rebel and Wife of Raúl Castro, Dies at 77
  3. ^ a b Richard Gott. Cuba, a new history p160.
  4. ^ On this day Time Magazine. Feb. 9, 2006. Accessed 8th October 2006.
  5. ^ "Falleció la heroína de la clandestinidad y combatiente destacada del Ejército Rebelde Vilma Espín Guillois", Granma, June 18, 2007 (Spanish).

External links[edit]

Media related to Vilma Espín at Wikimedia Commons