Cuban Revolutionary Fought For Women, Gays

Vilma Espin Dead at 77

Cuba’s in mourning today after word spread that revolutionary hero Vilma Espin has died.

The 77-year old wife of acting President Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, Espin won countless Cuban – and international – fans after fighting for women’s and gay rights. Al Jazeera reports:

Espin earned her revolutionary credentials by joining the armed struggle against Fulgencio Batista, the military ruler, in her hometown of Santiago, on Cuba’s eastern coast, in 1956.

Rebelling against her wealthy upbringing – her father was an executive at the Bacardi rum distillery – Espin joined Castro’s guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra mountains where she met Raul.

With her brother-in-law in power, Espin helped to establish and then lead [The Federation of Cuban Women] to fight illiteracy and bolster women’s political participation, also campaigning on issues such as abortion, contraception and children’s rights.

Espin also successfully pushed for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1979.

Had it not been for Espin’s social conscience, Cuban gays would never have the space to negotiate more inclusive family rights – a battle they began yesterday.

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  • dizzyspins

    Are you kidding me?!? I don’t celebrate anyone’s death—well, except maybe Jerry Fallwell’s—but how can you call a woman who enjoyed the comforts of luxury afforded a ruling party a revolutionary? Castro is/was leader for six decades—Espin served as First Lady for more than 45 years!

    What did Espin do for gays and women anyway? If you look up her obituary on Google, there’s no specifics, just vague statements made by Cuba’s state-run media.

    In the 1960s and 70s, Castro and his circle sent gays to forced labor camps. LABOR CAMPS! All public assembly in Cuba must be state- approved, and LGBT associations and events are pretty much not permitted. Wow, she did so much for us. I guess NOT going to labor camps is a victory of sorts.

    from Associated Press:

    “Espin’s power also was rooted in more than four decades as president of the Federation of Cuban Women, which she founded in 1960 and fashioned into an important pillar of support for the communist government. Virtually every woman and adolescent girl on the island are listed as members.”

    So basically she married into Castro’s circle, used feminism as a front to push women to follow the party line and then sat back and enjoyed the good life. Wow—what hero.

  • ogomezmontes

    She was a lesbian all her life. She did nothing for the cuban gays. Gays stopped being send to labor camps because it was expensive to send them and keep them there, not because Mrs. Castro did anything for them. It was a decision to keep the political prisoners or the gays locked up and the government decided for the political prisoners. Nevertheless, it is not easy to be gay in Cuba. The police, with government approval, harrasses you all the time. The government tolerates the gay artists that bring dollars and euroes from the USA and Europe, but that is it. Tolerates only. What I’m sure is that there is a great party in both Hells for this bitch, Castro’s Hell and Satan’s Hell.

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