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  • Vilma Espin

    Vilma Espin | Photo: Archive

Espin joined the struggle at a young age and was a leader in the victory of the Cuban Revolution on Jan. 1, 1959.

Cubans paid a moving tribute Sunday to Vilma Espin — the committed revolutionary fighter from the time of General Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship until her death on June 18, 2007.

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A military ceremony for the 10th anniversary of her death, led by the vice president of Cuba's State Council, Machado Ventura took place in the Mausoleum of the Eastern Front Frank Pais, where her ashes remain along with other revolutionary leaders.

Born on April 7, 1930, Espin was among the women who mobilized against the dictatorship and participated in student protests. Along with Celia Sanchez, Melba Hernandez, Haydee Santamaria, she later formed a women's guerrilla front called “Mariana Grajales” in the Sierra Maestra.

Espin participated in various military operations supporting the Rebel Army, converting her home in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba into the headquarters of the revolutionary movement.

As a prominent feminist, Espin headed the Federation of Cuban Women, which played an active role in defending women's rights throughout the revolutionary process.

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Espin's leadership role led to the Cuban constitution consecrating gender equality and condemning any gender or racial discrimination — potentially carrying two years in prison according to the criminal code.

As for reproductive rights, Cuba became the first country in Latin America to legalize abortion in 1965.

Women represent about 60 percent of the country's students, and 45 percent of the active population, and over 66 percent of professionals such as doctors, researchers and engineers are women.

The U.N. recently praised Cuba's policies as one of the top nations in ensuring gender equality and women empowerment.

The mother of LGBTQ pioneer Mariela Castro and partner of Raul Castro, Vilma Espin left an enduring legacy of revolutionary theory and struggle.


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