Reading in English is easier than in Spanish. I’m not talking about the language per se. The price is the fact. In the United Kingdom you can find the newest books –maybe in modest but useful editions- for ten pounds. Even more, the second hand market books are widely expanded through charities or second hand bookstores. In one of these places I got Guantánamo Diary for only three pounds, wrote by Mohamedou Ould Slahi and edited by Larry Siems. When I saw the cover page and the title my mind automatically forced me to buy the book. I am used to read essays and three or forth novels per year. But this book comes from within another literary gender, the autobiographies. And sincerely I also love these kinds of books.
Nonetheless, I especially like some kinds of autobiographies, concretely those which discuss social content from outcast people. Probably one of my favourite books is Hasta la libertad by Juan José Moreno Cuenca “El Vaquilla”, which describes the grievances and the struggles of the prisoner demanding rights and a better life inside jail. A story with an absolute and constant suffering and despair. In this sense, I’ve decided to read Guantanamo Diary inspired by Hasta la libertad, with the goal to read and learn another jail story that sends shivers down your spine.
The context is radically different. Whereas “El Vaquilla” is fighting against the post-Franco State in a new Spain with democracy anxiety, Mohamedou is in the CIA dead end, crazed by the terrorist attacks and seeking guilty for his own mistakes. In the first case, “El Vaquilla” is in jail due to his slum-dwellers origins. He grow up in the outskirts of Barcelona dealing with drugs and endemic poverty. In the second case, Mohamedou is a Mauritanian (poor and Muslim country) guy who fought against communism during the Afganistan War. The similarity of both guys is his outcast situation.
Hasta la libertad is probably more poetic than Guantanamo diary. More reflexive, dealing with a lot of topics and showing the amazing struggle for his rights. El Vaquilla was a guy who went to jail with only 16 years. Known by his stories of stolen cars and thefts; a real master in the art of driving and getting away from the police. Moreover, El Vaquilla represents a beat generation called “Kinkis”, being the most well-known name and acting in some films showing his own life. Besides, El Vaquilla starred impressive riots and escapes in jail. I published some posts about that. In summary, “Hasta la libertad is a harsh denunciation of the prison system made from within and a terrible accusation of the violation of the prisoner’s human rights.”
The anecdotes of Moha are dreadful. During a lot of years suffering all kinds of vexations. Constants episodes of torture. The situation for Moha is maddening: he cannot see his family and he never knows anything. The U.S.A security guards are escorting Moha the whole day, showing his complete ignorance about Islam and muslim world, and wondering about his religious beliefs. Why are you Muslim?, repeated the officials. In Moha’s book we can find constantly studs and erased and banned sentences, showing the confidentially things that he has written during his jail stages.
At the end, one of the draw conclusions is the unfairness of their situation. A plight that drives the history. Juan Jose protects himself with the heroine; Moha with the Koran.