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Truth and Memory Weekly Bulletin on UMAP / HÉCTOR SANTIAGO

Truth and Memory Weekly Bulletin on UMAP / HÉCTOR SANTIAGO

Translator: Unstated, UMAP Truth and Memory

Government paper headline: UMAP forges citizens useful to society


UMAP* was more terrible than what has been said, because they tried to

change homosexual orientation through so-called scientific methods

which, imported from the USSR, consisted of insulin injections and the

application of electroshocks, interacting with images of naked men, on

the one hand, and naked women on the other. So the images of men became

a punishment, and the images of the women a reward, the reward being not

to be subjected to electroshock therapy. They applied this to us with a

mixture of the childishness and depravity reflected in Ivan Petrovich

Pavlov's experiments with dogs. A true horror of the twentieth century.

UMAP began long before the first call to Military Service in 1965: They

had started secretly making lists in the Committees for the Defense of

the Revolution [the block-watch groups] of the "antisocials" in each

neighborhood, and had purged the scholarship lists and the University of

Havana, and beginning in 1961 they started with the so-called

"round-ups." I had the honor of falling, with Virgilio Piñera into the

"Three P's" — Prostitutes, Pederasts and Pimps — in the Havana camp in

mid-adolescence. I was signed in there, along with other artists,

common prisoners, and those imprisoned in the Gallery 16 of homosexuals

in the Prisión del Príncipe, who formed the first contingent.

We lived for a month as Esmeralda, a mixed camp, where we homosexuals

were separated by electrified fences from the so-called "normals," and

then taken to Sola, Ciego de Ávila and other camps exclusively for

homosexuals, as they moved us according to their needs for labor.

Finally, my rebelliousness landed me in Malesar y Manatianbo: a true

inferno built next to a swamp with mosquitoes that looked like

butterflies and every kind of infection and diarrhea.

After a year that called me and put me in a jeep and with no explanation

I landed in Havana in front of my house: it would be years before it was

known that Nicolás Guillén, Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, Mirta Aguirre and

other members of the government worked for the release of artists like

José Mario, Jorge Ronet, etc. — which even today makes me feel guilty

for all my unlucky companions who didn't have anyone to intercede for

them and committed suicide, went insane, and did their supposed three

years — followed by more round-ups, purges at work, the Vagrancy Act and

the "Parametración*" against artists in the 1970s.

The Observatorio LGBT (LGBT Observatory), an independent LGBT rights

organization, is preparing a weekly bulletin detailing Cubans' memories

of "la UMAP*." This is the first memory from this first bulletin.

Translating Cuba will continue to bring you these memories in translation.

Translator's notes:

*UMAP – Military Units to Aid Production — was a network of

concentration camps for "counterrevolutionary elements," including

homosexuals, religious believers and others.

**"Parametrizar" (the verb — meaning "to set parameters") or

"parametración" (the noun) was a process implemented during the

so-called "Five Grey Years" (1971-76), that imposed strict guidelines on

cultural figures and educators with regards to their sexual preferences,

religious beliefs, connections with people abroad and other aspects of

their personal lives. This policy was confirmed after the 1971 National

Congress on Education and Culture. Homosexual artists were ostracized,

cultural influences from capitalist countries were banned, and cultural

ties to Cubans living in exile were severed. ("Bad elements," including

homosexuals and others, were also interned in concentration camps known

as "UMAP" — Military Units in Aid of Production.) The 2007 return on

Cuban television of the figures responsible for this policy was a key

event that eventually led to the reaction that sparked the beginning of

the independent blogosphere reflected here in TranslatingCuba.com. See

"The Intellectual Debate" for more background in English.


From University of Miami Libraries: Holder of Hector Santiago's Papers

Héctor Santiago Armenteros Ruiz is a versatile artist who was

involved in theater in Cuba, before and after the Cuban Revolution, and

in the United States. He worked as an actor, playwright, director,

choreographer, dancer, and puppeteer. Santiago was born in Havana, Cuba

in 1944. He graduated from the Cuban National Dramatist School after

studying literature at the University of Havana. In 1959, he co-founded

the Children's Theatrical Movement in Cuba. The writer Virgilio Piñera

was his intimate friend and his literature professor throughout those

active years.

In 1965, Santiago was accused of antisocial behavior. Five years

later he was arrested and his literary works seized by the government.

The artist was sentenced to three years service in UMAP (Military Units

to Aid Production), which was a type of Cuban forced labor camp where

political dissidents were made to work in inhumane conditions. In 1979,

he left Cuba for Spain. Santiago was eventually able to move to New

York, where he resides today.

Santiago has been active in promoting HIV awareness in New York

City. He has shown a strong desire to portray the social and human

impacts of the disease, as it was a theme in his plays throughout the

1980s. He once said, "As a human being, I have tried to bring light to

these dark times and unflaggingly struggled so that man does not become

man's wolf."

Many of his plays have been performed in Cuba and in the United

States. His short stories, essays, and plays have been published and

translated into English, French and Catalan. His play Vida y Pasión de

la Peregrina (Life and Passion of the Pilgrim) was the winner of the

Golden Letters Award from the University of Florida, and the world

premiere took place during the Miami International Theatre Festival in 1998.

Authors: Marta Martínez and Rachel Ewy

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