From State Homophobia to Marriage Equality in Cuba

The acceptance of unions between two people of the same sex owes more to “State transvestism” than to pressure from the LGBT community (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Abel Sierra Madero, New York | August 28, 2018 — For the past few years the Cuban regime has been producing some sudden changes meant to guarantee the continuity of the system and to erase the past. I called this process of “gatopardism” (a political strategy of changing things so that everything remains the same) “State transvestism.”

It is a readjustment of the revolutionary rhetoric of the Cold War that uses the notion of diversity as a method to offer to the outside world an image of change, but with hardly any tweaks. State transvestism is also a policy that uses new means of managing political control and (self) transition being brought about by the old Cuban political elite.

This strategy started to be tested a decade ago by the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), directed by Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of General Raúl Castro. From 2007, Mariela dominated the headlines when, to the party rhythm of the conga, she started to parade through the streets of Havana surrounded by gay people, insisting that sexual diversity formed part of the Revolution and “in a revolutionary manner.” continue reading

In 2008, CENESEX got the Ministry of Public Health to approve a resolution that authorized sex change operations, which regenerated great affection on the international level as well as on the island. At that time, the institution proposed a new family code and a law of gender identity.

The issue remained silenced for years, until a few days ago, when the Cuban National Assembly — totally controlled by the regime — approved, unanimously and true to the old Soviet style, a new Constitutional text prepared in secret which even Raúl Castro himself helped to edit. They say that it will be submitted very soon to popular consultation, although the general clarified that the consultation would consist of a debate supervised by the Communist Party.

Cosmetic and semantic politics

The project of the “new” constitution is getting tangled up at the same time with cosmetic and semantic politics. It says that private property will be recognized and that the construction of Communism will be renounced, although the Communist Party will continue togovern the destinies of the nation. It assures that socialism is irreversible, but behind the curtain the socialist model is being supplanted little by little by a neoliberal capitalism of the State, which concentrates power in a military elite and more and more cuts the budgets of state services like public health and education — areas on which the Cuban government has rested its legitimacy.

However, the paragraph that most stirred up the media and caused an explosion on social media was Article 68, which considers the “officially approved voluntary union between two persons with the legal capacity for it.” No longer is it limited to a man and a woman, as it was up until now. This simple change can open a pathway to the recognition of gay marriage in Cuba.

Marriage equality has its supporters and its detractors. In the United States and Europe, for example, it has been criticized by queer theorists and activists for the demobilization and the depoliticization it has generated inside these communities, which have seen marriage as the end of a historic agenda to fight for. But that is another discussion.

In Cuba, supporters will say that the approval of equal marriage signifies a step toward the recognition of individual rights, historically diluted in the impersonal and collective mass. To a certain extent they are right. I am in favor of all laws that favor groups that are vulnerable, whether for reasons of race, sexuality, gender, or politics. However, I cannot help pointing out the logic on which the recognition of marriage equality on the island is set up, and the consequences that it could have, thinking about the future and the history of the Revolution itself.

Marriage equality responds to assimilating policies that are being tried out by the State to create politically docile identities. Finally passed, marriage equality would create a protective framework basically circumscribed by the patrimonial one. For years we have seen many people stripped of the goods and properties of their partners, because they did not have the legal protection to inherit. But at the same time, it turns into a device, an instrument aimed at assimilating and canceling out a more comprehensive democratic discussion, not circumscribed to the specific issue of sexuality.

With the way things stand, marriage equality seems to be turning into another space of controlled diversity created for public post-revolution relationships. “With this proposed constitutional regulation, Cuba places itself among the countries at the vanguard of the recognition and guarantee of human rights,” pointed out Mariela Castro. In this way, marriage equality turns into an instrument of propaganda over human rights, an area in which the government has come under harsh criticism.

So, can a country which every year registers high numbers of arbitrary arrests for political motives be considered “at the vanguard” of human rights? A country that considers dissidents or opponents as mercenaries at the service of foreign powers or as traitors to the homeland? A country where freedom of expression, of association, among others, is practically prohibited?

Yesterday’s False Hope

Some activists from the LGBTI community in Cuba have claimed this change as a result of the pressure they have exerted on the institutions. However, this conjecture doesn’t have much support if we take into account the strong pressure that opponents, the Cuban diaspora, the exiles, and international organizations have exerted for decades for the government to recognize other liberties and rights, while those who pull the strings of power haven’t moved a muscle.

Without discounting the agency or the importance of the work of activism, I must say that marriage equality is anchored to this “State transvestism” of which I spoke at the beginning. This policy, in addition to trying out new means of political control, promotes an amnesiac transition, the washing of national memory and the rewriting of history. It is a matter of reaccomodating or rewriting certain historical processes that connect the Revolution to discrimination and homophobia.

For decades homophobia in Cuba was a policy of the State that legimitized purges of gay people from institutions and their internment forced labor camps, like the infamous Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), aimed at the construction of the Communist “New Man.” The washing of memory and the rewriting of history began in August of 2010, when Fidel Castro told La Jornada that he recognized his historical responsibility in the implementation of these forced labor camps.

A few months later, Mariela Castro, in an interview with the Swiss Institute for Cooperation (COSUDE), embarked on a damage control campaign where she ended up saying that “Fidel didn’t even know about UMAP. He was concentrating on the survival of the Revolution and on the changes that they were making in politics, the laws in favor of the rights of the people, amidst complex and tense international relations.”

Mariela Castro has tried to minimized the scope and scale of UMAP in the history of the Cuban Revolution. She even promised an investigation into the matter; we are still waiting for it. Since then, the director of CENESEX has said, in every forum she has appeared in or every interview that she gives, that UMAP was an isolated error and that they were by no means forced labor camps.

Mariela is not the only one engaged in this effort, other cultural commissioners are also trying to reproduce and export this version. If these speeches manage to take root, it’s possible that in a not too distant future, we will see UMAP represented in textbooks and in the public sphere as mere summer camps.

In Cuba I see many of the elements that Isaac Rosa pointed out in his novel Yesterday’s False Hope (2004). Rosa called attention to the existence in Spain of narrative forms that tend to tame and anesthetize the past, while offering a placid image of the Franco dictatorship.

One of the passages reads: “Consciously or unconsciously, many novelists, journalists, and essayists (and filmmakers, let’s not forget) have transmitted a deformed image of Francoism… By doing so they construct a digestible impression of the banana republic in front of the reality of a dictatorship that applied, in detail and until its last day, refined techniques of torture, censorship, mental repression, cultural manipulation, and the creation of psychological ways of thinking that even today we have not managed to completely get rid of.”

On the island, this type of representation goes back to the 90s. Let’s not forget conciliatory exercises like the film Strawberry and Chocolate (1993). “Fidel, with this film, assumed, and with nothing to say, we close internationally that horrible moment that some call a Chapter and that I prefer to call a “digression” that was the UMAP,” wrote the then-director of the Cuban Institute of Art and Film, Alfredo Guevara, to the comandante.

Finally, with the passing of marriage equality, Cuba would take an important step toward becoming a gay-friendly State, which can create large businesses in areas like tourism and sex change operations. Until now, the principal market for these surgeries is in Thailand, but the scene could change because Cuban doctors are now carrying out these procedures, after having received the know-how of European specialists for several years, as part of the CENESEX program.

In recent days, Grupo Gaviota, a corporation belonging to the Cuban military — yes, the military — signed an agreement with the European chain Muthu Hotels & Resorts to manage a hotel in Cuba aimed at the LGTBI community. The company made the announcement with great ceremony on its Twitter account.

The police raids and underground spaces, the forced labor camps and the state-sanctioned homophobia, will remain in obscurity. Celebrities of the gay world can marry in Cuba without fear of being arrested. Now more than ever we need a policy of memory that is not aimed at the clinical space of healing, but rather at justice and compensation for the victims of this harmful policy. It is the only way to ensure that the past not be that “yesterday’s false hope” of which Isaac Rosa spoke.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


Editors’ Note: Abel Sierra Madero (Matanzas, Cuba, 1976) is an essayist, researcher, professor, and critic. With the author’s permission we are reproducing this text which was previously published in the Mexican magazine Letras Libres.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Academies To Produce Macho-Men In Cuba / Abel Sierra Madero

Card issued by the “National Information Center,” which was tied to the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) in the 1960s. This document constitutes a valuable source for the study of vigilance and social and political control in Cuba. On the upper right corner of the card appears the word, “secret,” along with instructions to informants. These should contact the Center when they “know of any instance or indication of enemy activity,” and use a password to maintain “secrecy.” Photo courtesy of María Antonia Cabrera Arus.
Card issued by the “National Information Center,” which was tied to the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) in the 1960s. This document constitutes a valuable source for the study of vigilance and social and political control in Cuba. On the upper right corner of the card appears the word, “secret,” along with instructions to informants. These should contact the Center when they “know of any instance or indication of enemy activity,” and use a password to maintain “secrecy.” Photo courtesy of María Antonia Cabrera Arus.

In the 1960s, close to 30,000 young men were detained in forced-labor camps. The mistreatments that took place in these camps, known as Military Units to Aid Production UMAP, in the name of “social hygiene,” testify to the homophobic component of the Cuban Revolution.

Abel Sierra Madero, From Letras Libras, January 2016 — Between 1965 and 1968, the Cuban government established, in the central region of the country, dozens of forced-labor camps known as Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), where about 30,000 men were sent under the pretext of the Obligatory Military Service Law (SMO). The hybrid structure of work camps cum military units served to camouflage the true objectives of the recruitment effort and to distance the UMAPs from the legacy of forced labor. Thus the military-style organization and discipline to which the detainees were subjected could be justified. November 2015 marked 50 years since the regime implemented this experiment.

Historians have generally avoided research into state social-control policies based on forced labor, concentration and isolation of thousands of Cuban citizens at rural locations set up during the 1960s. Likewise, they have rejected the usage of such terminology, as if it did not apply to the case of Cuban socialism, or its use was not “politically incorrect.” By the same token, testimonies and narratives produced by former UMAP detainees have almost always been held suspect. A fascination with beards and uniforms on the part of the mainstream press in Europe and the US, along with powerful images constructed by revolutionary propaganda, have up to now overshadowed the testimonies of Cuban exiles regarding their terrible experiences in these camps.

These accounts became part of an anti-communist narrative to which, supposedly, the exiles had to conform in order to survive outside Cuba. At least, that was what Ambrosio Fornet, one of the most recognized intellectuals on the Island, thought in 1984 while giving an interview to Gay Community News. Although he recognized that the UMAPs were a sort of “academy to produce macho-men,” Fornet criticized the perspectives on the repression offered by exiled continue reading

Cuban writers and artists in the documentary film, Improper Conduct (1984), by Néstor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez Leal. According to Fornet, the majority of the witnesses who appeared in the film lied about UMAP; the writers were saying “what they should say because they’re making a living off of anti-communism.” He added, “The idea of a repressive police state that persecutes individuals is totally absurd and stupid.”

UMAP cannot be understood as an isolated institution, but rather as part of a project of “social engineering” geared toward social and political control. That is, a technology that involved the judicial, military, educational, medical and psychiatric apparatuses. For the establishment of these camps, complex methodologies were employed to identify specific subjects and purge them from mass institutions and organizations, up to and including their recruitment and internment.

Masculinization and Militarization

There were several criteria that the authorities took into account to recruit and intern thousands of subjects in the forced-labor camps. One of them was homosexuality, and it is estimated that around 800 homosexuals were shut away in the camps. Nevertheless, there were other, political, reasons.

In the mid-1960s, Cuba was involved in a transnational process of constructing socialism along with the Soviet Union, the Eastern socialist bloc, and China. These regimes invested many symbolic resources in the creation of national stereotypes that were almost always associated with complex processes of masculinization. In this sense, the concept of the “New Man” was one of the most powerful ideals within these systems, although it had also been used by German Nazism and Italian Fascism.

In the Cuban case, this concept was associated with a broader ideological strain of social homogenization in which fashion, urban sociability practices, religious creeds and work-related behavior were key elements to bring in line with the official normative vision. Thus it is not strange that—besides homosexuals—delinquents, religious believers, intellectuals or simply young men of bourgeois background, were also sent to UMAP.

The psychologist Liliana Morenza, a member of the UMAP research team of psychologists, with two homosexuals from Company 4, Battalion 7, Unit to Aid Production, “La Violeta,” Camagüey, 1967. Photo courtesy of Dr. María Elena Solé.
The psychologist Liliana Morenza, a member of the UMAP research team of psychologists, with two homosexuals from Company 4, Battalion 7, Unit to Aid Production, “La Violeta,” Camagüey, 1967. Photo courtesy of Dr. María Elena Solé.

Although the establishment of the forced-labor camps was accomplished towards the end of 1965, these camps were created under the pretext of Law 1129 of 26 November 1963, which established Obligatory Military Service (SMO) for a period of three years, for men between the ages of 16 and 45. The law exempted those who were the only source of economic support for their parents, spouse and children. At least in theory, the law allowed for a deferral of the recruitment of young men who were finishing their final year of secondary school, pre-university, or university studies.

Nonetheless, the authorities applied those sections with discretion, employing political criteria regarding UMAP. Some young men who constituted the only support for their families were recruited without regard for the consequences for those domestic economies. Many students of diverse educational levels who were at the point of graduating became eligible for recruitment to the SMO when they were expelled as part of a “purification” process. This process, which began around 1965—a few months before the first call to UMAP—had the character of a “purge,” a social crusade, headed by the Union of Young Communists (UJC) against those who were not perceived as “revolutionaries.”

In a communication published in Mella magazine on 31 May 1965, the UJC admonished high school students to expel “counterrevolutionary and homosexual elements” from their groups in the final year of study, so as to impede their university admissions. Also mentioned are those who display “deviances,” or “some kind of petit-bourgeois softness and apathy towards the revolutionary activities being performed by the student body.” They should be sent to the SMO so that they may “gain the right” to be admitted to university. “You know who they are, you have had to fight them many times […] apply the strength of worker and peasant power, the strength of the masses, the right of the masses against their enemies […] Away with the homosexuals and counterrevolutionaries from our schools!” Thus concluded the communication.

Seen here is psychologist Liliana Morenza, one of the specialists who joined the UMAP research team of psychologists, with various homosexuals and military officials. Company 4, Battalion 7, “La Violeta” Unit to Aid Production, Camagüey. 1967. (Courtesy of Dr. María Elena Solé).
Seen here is psychologist Liliana Morenza, one of the specialists who joined the UMAP research team of psychologists, with various homosexuals and military officials. Company 4, Battalion 7, “La Violeta” Unit to Aid Production, Camagüey. 1967. (Courtesy of Dr. María Elena Solé).

A few days later, Alma Mater magazine—the official organ of the Federation of University Students (FEU)—went along with this policy, assuring readers that the purification was the result of the historical moment, and a “necessity for the future development of the Revolution.” The assertion was that the purges of counterrevolutionaries and homosexuals should not be understood as two isolated processes, but rather as one, because “so noxious are the influence and activity of both of them to the formation of the professional revolutionary of the future.”

Once the purges were finalized, those young men were left exposed and at the mercy of the State. Their entry into UMAP was a matter of time. No sooner were the purifications concluded, via the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)—one of the most effective surveillance institutions created for social and political control in Cuba—than censuses were conducted to identify those youths who were not working nor going to school. This information was provided to the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR), the entities charged with recruitment for the UMAPs.

By 1964, Fidel Castro was boasting of the impact the SMO was having on Cuban youth, and emphasizing the failure of institutions such as the family and school in the education of young people. “All right, then, what they could not teach them at home,” he would declare, “what they could not teach them in school, what they could not teach them at the institute, they learned in the army, they learned in a military unit.” For his part, his brother Raúl Castro Ruz, at that time minister of the FAR, gave assurances in a speech delivered on 17 April 1965, that the objectives of the Revolution could only be achieved with a “youth of tempered character,” possessing a “firm character” that was “forged in sacrifice,” far from “softnesses.” A youth that would be inspired “not by dancers of the Twist and Rock and Roll, nor by a display of pseudo-intellectualism,” a youth that would stay away from “all that would weaken the character of men.”

The economic utilization of the body

By way of these processes of militarization and masculinization, the intent was not only to correct gestures and postures, but to reorient and reintegrate those forces and bodies to an economic apparatus. The rhetoric of war, employed repeatedly by the leaders of the Revolution, was incorporated into the ideological and economic discourse in the form of military-type campaigns, and the workers were seen as heroes and soldiers—not just to insert them into a political rituality, but to utilize them as a workforce without having to compensate them financially. In a 1969 article, economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago analyed the types of non-paid work during the 1960s in Cuba, and among those models mentioned UMAP. According to Mesa-Lago, the government achieved savings of around $300-million Cuban pesos through non-paid labor between 1962 and 1967.

Photo taken by the team of psychologists during a session of hormone therapy administered to homosexuals in UMAP, 1967. (Courtesy of Dr. María Elena Solé).
Photo taken by the team of psychologists during a session of hormone therapy administered to homosexuals in UMAP, 1967. (Courtesy of Dr. María Elena Solé).

Around the 1960s, the Cuban economy was dependent on sugar, but the mechanization of cane-cutting was not widespread, therefore the success of the harvests depended on manual cutting. During this period, the sugar harvests began to form part of a great ideological leap that Fidel Castro had planned for 1970. The Maximum Leader was trying to take the Island to a higher degree in the construction of socialism by way of a harvest of ten-million tons of sugar. To achieve the desired effect, Castro needed to mobilize and deploy a major workforce to the areas where large sugar plantations were located. Camagüey province, with considerable expanses of land and scarce labor, was strategically selected for the establishment of the UMAPs in the final months of 1965.

Thus, the camps were inserted into the planned socialist economy, as had occurred in the Soviet Union with the gulag (General Directorate of Labor Camps). Vladimir V. Tchernavin, who managed to escape from a Soviet gulag, describes how, at the start of 1930, that institution became a great forced-labor enterprise, appearing to be a correctional entity, which allowed for the establishment of development plans in places where such an endeavor would have been very difficult without the available forced labor. According to Tchernavin, the gulag provided a structure and functions similar to those of a state enterprise, it was organized like military units, and the detainees received a miserable wage for their work.

A similar thing occurred with UMAP. The inmates of these camps, as well as others recruited by the SMO, received a salary of seven pesos per month, and they were compelled to participate in what is known as “socialist emulation,” a type of competition to incentivize production in which the “vanguards” did not receive financial compensation, but rather diplomas or recognition during political and mass events.

Cover of Sin Tregua! [Without Truce], informational bulletin of the UMAPs political arm, No. 6, 1967. “Social hygiene is what this is called”
Cover of Sin Tregua! [Without Truce], informational bulletin of the UMAPs political arm, No. 6, 1967.
“Social hygiene is what this is called”

It could be said that at the start of 1959, moral panic was the ideological framework on which the campaign for national regeneration was based, which called the entire nation to liquidate the “vices” of the past and consolidate revolutionary power. But very soon, this religious sort of schema was complemented with speeches about hygiene and the notion of “social sickness.”

On 15 April 1965, some months before the first recruitment drive for the UMAPs, the writer Samuel Feijóo, in El Mundo newspaper, published “Revolution and Vices,” an account of the tensions that caused the merging of the religious, political and hygienic discourses. Among the vices that still needed to be eradicated, the writer pointed to alcoholism, and “rampant and provocative homosexuality.” He assured readers that the matter was “not about persecuting homosexuals, but rather about destroying their positions, their procedures, their influence. Social hygiene is what this is called.”

In this manner, the discourses on hygiene and those that came out of the field of psychology were adapted to justify the UMAPs. The camps became a quarantine area, a laboratory that provided not only for the isolation of inmates, but also for the opportunity to study them. In May of 1966, a few months after the UMAPs had been established, María Elena Solé put together a team of psychologists and physicians that made up a secret operation organized by the political arm of MINFAR, to design and work on rehabilitation and reeducation programs for homosexuals in UMAP.

According to Solé’s testimony to me in March 2012, the team’s work consisted in “evaluating these persons from a psychological perspective.” But the evaluation and classification was not based exclusively on aspects related to the generic-sexual configuration of the individuals, but rather incorporated also an ideological criterion.

The team of psychologists drew upon the notion of “afocancia,” a cubanism not recognized by the dictionary, which has been employed to negatively describe those persons who stand out publicly because of certain physical or moral characteristics. Thus, a Template A (for “afocante”) was designed, to distribute homosexuals across four scales: A1, A2, A3 and A4. Type-1 “afocantes” were considered to be those “who did not make a public show of their problem, and were revolutionaries—in the sense that they did not wish to leave the country—comported themselves in a normal fashion, and were more or less integrated into society.” Conversely, “one who let his feathers fly and who, besides, was not integrated into the Revolution nor had any interest in it,” and had expressed a desire to leave the country, was considered a Type-4 “afocante.” As María Elena Solé explained, “there were revolutionaries in this group, but if someone made a display of his problem, we would not classify him as A-1, but as A-4.”

Some of the former UMAP inmates assure me that the team of psychologists conducted various experiments and tests of a behaviorist and reflexologist nature, which included the application of electroshock. However, Dr. Solé asserts that the tests that were done were solely designed to “measure intelligence.” In contrast, Héctor Santiago — a theater person connected to one of the most controversial cultural projects of the 1960s in Cuba, Ediciones El Puente, and who was sent to a UMAP — assured me that the team’s examinations were, at least in their totality, of another character. According to Santiago, the psychologists and psychiatrists utilized behaviorist techniques in the UMAPs such as shocks produced by electrodes, and insulin-produced comas. These experiments consisted in the application of alternating-current shocks “while showing us photographs of nude men, so that we would subconsciously reject them, turning us by-force into heterosexuals.”

This description concurs with various articles that detailed this procedure and that circulated in specialized Cuban journals of psychology and psychiatry during the 1960s. This therapy, which had been developed in Prague by K. Freund, consisted in creating conditioned reflexes. In Cuba it was Dr. Edmundo Gutiérrez Agramonte who incorporated this practice.

Felipe Guerra Matos, the official in charge of the dismantling UMAP, remarked to me during an interview in June 2015, that the idea of placing teams of psychologists in the UMAPs had been his, and that up to 30,000 subjects were confined in them, including approximately 850 homosexuals. At one point in the conversation, Guerra Matos stated, “We committed grave errors, imposing punishments on the little faggots, a lot of things were done there […] They were made to stare into the sun, to count ants […] ‘Go ahead, stare into the sun, you’ll see.’ Any abomination that occurred to some harebrained guard. I am at fault, because I signed off on recruitments.”

The punishments in the UMAPs could range from verbal insults to physical mistreatment and torture. Several of my interviewees assured me that one of the methods of punishment employed by some guards consisted in burying the detainee in a hole in the ground and leaving him with his head exposed for several hours. Some were dunked in a tank of water until they lost consciousness; others were tied to a stake or a fence and left for the night, exposed to the elements, so that they would be food for mosquitos. According to Héctor Santiago, this method of punishment was called “the stake.” The torment and mortification of the body had a purpose of intimidation and formed part of a narrative in which the punishments were given names such as the “trapeze,” the “brick,” the “rope,” the “hole,” among others.

On the other hand, many of the camps were surrounded by barbed-wire fences, used repeatedly in jails and concentration camps. According to the singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés, who was sent to UMAP in 1966, these fences were composed of 14 wire strands, arranged so that they reached up to six meters in height. A brief song is dedicated to this wire fence and the enclosure, entitled, “Fourteen Strands and One Day.” Milanés explained to me that the song was not recorded in those years, but rather later, in the studios of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, in the 1970s.

Fourteen strands and one day separate me from my beloved,

Fourteen strands and one day separate me from my mother,

And now I know whom I will love

When the strands and the day

I am able to leave.


The history of this sad experiment has remained buried on the Island. Up to today, the Cuban government has constantly denied the character of the UMAPs, and has sought to erase from the collective imagination anything related to this subject. At the same time, the international Left has preferred to view UMAP as an error inherent to revolutionary movements. This ideological exercise has been influenced by the manner in which the figure of Fidel Castro became one of the most powerful representations of the Revolution. Therefore, once the critiques and international campaigns calling for the dismantling of the camps began, it became indispensable to disassociate the Maximum Leader from these processes, so that UMAP could be justified as an exception that should not be identified with the Revolution. This is how, for example, Ernesto Cardenal did it. In his book, En Cuba (1972), the Nicaraguan poet and theologian told of how he was visited by two young men who were interested in complementing his official view of the Island. One of them had been a “jailer” for UMAP, and assured Cardenal that it was Fidel Castro who eliminated those “concentration camps,” invoking at times the law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The picturesque account that Cardenal narrates in his book constitutes the only source that makes this type of reference. In 2010, during an interview granted to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Fidel Castro himself finally “assumed” his responsibility in the establishment of those work camps.

UMAP was officially dissolved via Law 058 of October 1968. Although these camps disappeared as an institution, other, more sophisticated devices and institutions replaced them, keeping intact the spirit and motivations that created them. The decade of the 1970s was still to come.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison