More on beautiful obscenities and the forgotten dead
Saturday I wrote about The Motorcycle Diaries and its obsecene lyricism in idolizing a mass murderer. A commenter wrote,
Don’t forget all the Gays he had killed
Carlos Eire‘s book deals with the subject (page 256),
He thinks about that cruel ritual he has witnessed so many times, when the guards strip all the prisoners naked and parade the most handsome in front of the newly arrived inmates to find out who among them is gay. He thinks about how anyone who gets aroused is taken away for a special mandatory “rehabilitation” program that includes the application of electrical currents to the genitals.
Reinaldo Arenas was one among many gay men who were sent to Cuban concentration camps. Arenas’s work portrays Cuba as one big prison, “where sodomite hedonism is a clear protest against the cruel Castro regime”. A Gay News review of Arenas’s autobiography, Before Night Falls explains,
Gay men have indeed been persecuted in Cuba, but luckily things are a bit better these days. Authors add excusingly that Fidel Castro has done a lot of good for the Cubans as far as education and health-care are concerned. An important question is where the homophobia of Castro`s regime comes from. With nuances all authors point at traditional Latin-American machismo, though they also have to admit that socialism didn`t do much for the breaking down of male megalomania and hatred against gays.
The cowardice and half-heartedness of left wing, sometimes even homosexual Cuba adepts we`d better forget. Meanwhile it`s beyond a doubt gays have been imprisoned en masse in the so called UMAP camps: the military units supporting the production. Jan Lumsden cautiously objects these camps weren`t for gays in the first place, but has to admit gays were its main population. All boys and men unfit for military service, arrested for homosexuality or considered unsocial in any other way, ended up in the UMAP camps where they carried on forced labour in for instance the sugar cane crop. The camps were in existence from 1965 till 1970. Since then queers who were dangerous to the state landed in jail again or in a regular work camp. The mass escape of maricones” during the Mariel exodus to the paradise of capitalism and decadence, North America, in 1980 was not accidental
For Arenas’s prison experiences in his own words, go to Amazon click on the book icon with “Search Inside”, and do a “Search inside this book” for keyword “prison”.
Arenas, as many hundreds of other gay men and lesbians, suffered from Che’s and Castro’s revolution. Arenas’s work, angry and hard-hitting, will endure, and he will be remembered. The names of those who died in the concentration camps are written on sand, washed by the tides.