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.
*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
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
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