Back in El Salvador, and Elections

Alright, I’m overdue for an update.

Visiting a scenic rock formation near the cost in La Libertad with some leaders in local community organizing.

Visiting a scenic rock formation near the cost in La Libertad with some leaders in local community organizing.

My excuse is that I just got hired as the new US El Salvador Sister Cities Coordinator, so for the past month I’ve been training and diving headfirst into all the work that needs to be done. And before that I spent November and December with my family in Texas, eating lots of breakfast tacos and taking hot showers.

I came back to El Salvador on  New Years day, just one month before the Presidential Elections.  It has been a very exciting context to be working in, and as seems to always be the case here in El Salvador — I’m learning a ton.  There is a lot riding on these elections — each of the candidates have very different ideas about how to address gangs, what economic development should look like, how to help poor farmers, and whether or not to let mega transnational companies wreak economic and environmental havoc on this tiny country at the waistline of the Americas. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced an election that feels like it has so much at stake as this one.

There are 3 main candidates, which in and of itself is unique from elections I’ve experienced in the US.  El Salvador does not have a 2 party system, and new parties are being born all the time. Also, they held a presidential debate for the first time ever this year — and all the candidates participated.  Granted, it was severely lacking in organization and direction, but that’s a major step towards a true democracy in which citizens are considered intelligent beings capable of making informed, educated decisions.

It is most impactful for me to think that an election could have such an impact on a country, and how in the US so often we have great high hopes for people who represent our interests, but who in the end somehow manage to all be pretty much the same.  Not to say that El Salavdor has only altruistic, independently thinking candidates — I’m not that naive.  But it does feel like making changes is really possible here.  Maybe it’s because it’s such a small country.

I’m excited to see the outcomes of these elections, and proud to see my friends con animo about practicing their right to vote as part of the process of creating the El Salvador that each of us hopes for.