We’re about three weeks from elections (to be held Sunday, September 11th… does anyone else think Sunday is a weird day to have an election?) and tensions are high. Personally, I will just be glad they’re over. No more caravans causing traffic, no more catchy candidate songs to get stuck in my head, no more awkward conversations about how, no, I can’t help and, no, I am not hoping for a particular candidate to win because as a Peace Corps Volunteer I am required to remain apolitical. But, most importantly, I will finally be able to move on from this strange election season limbo and start figuring out what the rest of my service is going to look like: Same mayor? Different mayor? New counterparts? New site altogether?!
It’s a little scary not knowing how the outcome of the 11th will affect the next year, there are just so many variables. If Chusito wins re-election (his fourth term – something highly out of the ordinary in a country where parties and candidates often only enjoy one term) then it’s time to really push for some projects to get done. If one of the many competitors wins (Ivan, Joselito, Juanito…) then it’s a great opportunity to start from scratch and help implement norms, programs, ideas that were impossible to introduce to an already established office dynamic. Then again, there’s also the slight possibility that a new mayor won’t want me in the muni anymore and I’ll have to find a new counterpart and organization to partner with. That could be here in Santa Cruz. And it might not be. So, it’s a little scary but I am ready.
Mainly because it has been very hard to get anything done in the past few months and I’ve been bored. No one knows if they’re going to have a job in the coming months and, even if they did want to start something, there are far too many important campaign related things to be doing! So I’ve been focusing on my youth groups and trying to maintain patience throughout all of this. But the end is in sight and I’ve never been really good at waiting so, for me, the 11th can’t get here soon enough.
Beyond reinvigorating my work environment, the 11th will also hopefully begin to bring to a close the craziness that takes over Guatemala during the election season. This is already a country that endures a certain degree of daily chaos, but the introduction of party politics and its divisiveness revs it all to a whole different level. Violence is an unfortunate byproduct with more than 30 mayoral candidates killed this season and countless other acts of aggression throughout the country. As volunteers many of us have been advised not to even go outside the day of the elections as it’s impossible to foresee the kind of reactions the outcomes will cause.
Though, I will say it’s been interesting getting to witness this process firsthand. Coming from a two party system, it’s crazy to see the incredible number of parties here and how they battle for votes (though I still couldn’t tell you the difference between their ideologies… just their colors). Also, it’s been interesting to see how parties and candidates reach out and attempt to mobilize voters without many of the tools we utilize in the states. Rather than email blasts and phone banking, here it’s all about homes painted with the party colors, banners everywhere, loudspeakers loaded in the back of a pickup blasting your favorite song with edited lyrics to promote the party/candidate and regular rallies. But, like I said, I’m ready for it to be over.
(I really wanted to include some pictures with this post to show just how thoroughly saturated the communities become with political materials but my neighbor borrowed the camera Jen was nice enough to give me to replace the stolen one… and then broke it. The universe just does not want me to have pictures, I guess. I’ll see if I can borrow the muni one and get some pictures up later. Though I do have this: Example of Political Song. (Chus is the candidate. Une is the party.) Give it a listen – it is by far the best one I have heard.)