Portrait of an Indispensable Cuban

These are the credentials of a book that has tried to sum up, in 240 pages, the life of Vilma Espín Guillois, from her days as Coordinator of the 26 of July Movement in the province of Oriente, when she was one of the revolutionary women most persecuted by the tyranny’s repressive bodies, through her times as an irreplaceable guerrilla with the Ejército Rebelde, to her full commitment to the Revolution, since as from January 1959 the struggle for women’s emancipation and advocacy for children’s rights added special meaning to her life.
According to Rodríguez, “the book will introduce its readers to her experiences during the fourteen months she operated in conditions of complete secrecy as well as to the way she later became involved in works of significant social justice such as the eradication of prostitution, the rescue of thousands of helpless children who survived in the streets, the education of peasant girls at the ‘Ana Betancourt’ School that she established, and the creation of the Day Care Centers among many others. The book reveals that passion she felt for everything she did.”
“The readers will better identify with our Vilma. They will become acquainted with a very brave Cuban, the same one who addressed countless international meetings advocating women’s right to full equality, and denouncing child labor, drug abuse or domestic violence…and in all those meetings she inspired great respect, even if oftentimes she had to wear again her guerrilla uniform to defend justice.”
“She is the thread of the whole story,” admits the compiler of Vilma: A Special Woman. “She is the true author; we simply put together the pieces of the puzzle based on everything she wrote and every task she undertook. From page one, the reader feels that it is Vilma recounting the events; you feel like you are just listening,” says Rodríguez for whom the possibility of learning about the wondrous world of this woman’s life meant an opportunity to meet again with the very special human being that she was.
The book offers around one thousand images, including pictures and testimonial documents, that is, not only snapshots of Vilma but also of her comrades in arms and of the times she lived.
After a two-year research you concluded that there is still much in Vilma’s life that is unkown. What could her legacy be to the youths who might be the ones less familiar with the heroine and her times?
“The book is also a portrait of the Revolution. It clearly exposes the crimes committed under Fulgencio Batista’s tyranny. The brutality of repression in Santiago de Cuba and the courage of the revolutionary youths are really stunning and for our young people it could be a lesson in history and revolutionary steadfastness. It is, above all, a lesson on the work of justice of the Revolution.”
As stated in the forewords written by Asela de los Santos Tamayo, another one of those great women who made history: “Let this book be, in the hands of our people and particularly our youth, a rapprochement to the personality of this indispensable patriot of the 20th Century, a fighter in the trenches of ideas and the trenches of rock, a relentless fighter for justice, a human being who taught us how to confront adversity and even death, always with the support of two great forces that nourished and inspired her precious life: love and ethics.”
This book is also a testimony of Vilma’s loyalty to Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, a loyalty born during the revolutionary struggle and strengthened in more than five decades of working side by side. It was him who, on December 2001, placed on Vilma’s chest the honorary title of Heroine of the Republic of Cuba, the best tribute to her untiring labors.
Adding to the description of every one of the battles in which this indispensable woman took part, the book transpires the complicity of love, the love that drew Vilma and Raúl together from their early days as young guerrilla fighters. The words and pictures in this book bring moments they shared during the construction of a different Cuba, because Vilma: A Special Woman is the portrait of a woman who fought with the same passion with which she loved.


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