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Mexico: Writing from Jail

Enrique Aranda Ochoa is not your average Mexican writer: Enrique was arrested in 1997 and convicted of kidnapping with a sentence of 50 years in prison. However, this has not stopped this renowned psychologist from pursuing his passion for literature.

Enrique has been awarded several national literature prizes and has already written six novels. Today he focuses on the mysteries of the Mayans in his book “El fin de los dias” (The end of our time) [es], which is available for purchase online [es] in an electronic format.

Blogger Gabriela Gutierrez M. from Animal Político [es] describes the writer's activities in jail:

Ávido por conversar, se le agolpan los temas entre las palabras. Puede comenzar hablando del Sol, por ejemplo, y termina hablando sobre Yoga, disciplina que además enseña en el penal. Una charla con él es equivalente a visitar alguna biblioteca, tras la cual uno termina con una lista de bibliografía pendiente por leer. Su última recomendación fue el cubano Joaquín María Machado de Assis.

Eager to talk, topics rush between his words. He can start talking about the sun, for example, and he might end up talking about yoga, a discipline that he teaches in prison. A conversation with him is equivalent to visiting a library, after which you end up with a list of outstanding literature for reading. His final recommendation was the Cuban Joaquin Maria Machado de Assis.

Image via Shutterstock, copyright Steve Snowden

Image via Shutterstock, copyright Steve Snowden

Gabriela continues her blog post [es] mentioning the awards Enrique has won through his texts written directly from jail:

Desde la cárcel, Enrique Aranda ha sido tres veces Premio Nacional de Poesía “Salvador Díaz Mirón” (1998, 2001 y 2008), otorgado por Conaculta-INBA. También obtuvo dos veces (2003 y 2008) el Premio Nacional de Cuento José Revueltas, otorgado por las mismas instituciones. El reconocimiento más reciente le fue concedido por el INBA en el concurso “México lee 2011”, que se otorga por fomento a la lectura, por el club de lectura que impulso dentro de la cárcel. Fue el Instituto de Cultura de la Ciudad de México, hoy Secretaría de Cultura, quien le proporcionó los cerca de 800 libros: “Cuando les llamé, primero creyeron que era un funcionario. Cuando les dije que era un preso se emocionaron”, dice. La misión con este proyecto era darles a los internos “el boleto para un tour por el anhelado mundo exterior”.

Right from prison, Enrique Aranda has been awarded the National Poetry Prize “Salvador Diaz Miron” (1998, 2001 and 2008) by Conaculta-INBA three times. He also won the National Short Story Prize José Revueltas, awarded by those institutions, twice (2003 and 2008). The most recent recognition was granted by the INBA in the “Mexico lee 2011″ contest, which awards the promotion of reading, for the book club he created inside the jail. It was the Cultural Institute of Mexico City, now Ministry of Culture, who provided nearly 800 books [for the club]: “When I called them, at first thought it was an official. When I told them I was a prisoner they were excited”, he says. The mission of this project was to give inmates “a ticket for a tour of the outside world they longed for.”

The website of Mexican magazine Proceso [es] published an article on his case where they mention the irregularities of his indictment for kidnapping:

Enrique sospechó siempre que su detención se debió a sus actividades políticas en distintos foros públicos, por solidarizarse con causas sociales, como la zapatista, y por participar como activista contra el Tratado de Libre Comercio. El caso también fue denunciado por Amnistía Internacional en su informe de 2003: Juicios injustos: tortura en la administración de justicia (Índice AI: AMR 41/007/2003/); el presidente del PEN Club, Eugene Schoulgin, los visitó en 2006; también Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights los defiende, y la Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal emitió la recomendación 12/02 por tortura y violación a sus garantías jurídicas.

Enrique always suspected that his arrest was due to his political activities in public forums, for his solidarity with social causes, such as the zapatista cause, and for participating as an activist against NAFTA. The case was also reported by Amnesty International in its 2003 report: Unfair trials: torture in the administration of justice (AI Index: AMR 41/007/2003/), the president of the PEN Club, Eugene Schoulgin, visited him in 2006; also the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights defends them, and the Human Rights Commission of the Federal District (Mexico City) issued a Recommendation 12/02 due to torture and violation of his legal guarantees.

Enrique Aranda Ochoa plans to take his case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

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