Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Quiet ...

It’s been since Thursday that we have had the loud caravans and drive by music and chanting of the political parties.   The law says the propaganda and noise has to stop 3 days prior to elections. 

We’ve had over 3 weeks of almost nightly noise here in Berlín and I suspect, in most every town in El Salvador.  The mayor’s seat and the deputies are up for re-election.  There are 4 strong parties here in Berlín.  The FMLN has Don Lito (who currently holds the mayoral seat).  The ARENA party has Don Rafael – the son of the owner of the Hostel Casa Mia up the street from us.  GANA has Don Freddy.   I honestly don’t know much about him.  CN (formerly the PCN) has Don Carlos – who happens to be the owner of the hardware store next door to us.  He also lives between us and said store. 

And in case you are curious … not all of their names are “Don” – this is the title of respect I am giving them.  Somewhat like “Mr.”

As many of you know, we live and work on the main street leading into town – many of you, my faithful readers, have been here.  So that is probably why we get to see the front line of all the caravans … they start down by the gas station just a block away and proceed noisily into and all around town.  We always have at least an hour’s notice of the start of a caravan because all of the participants honk and bleat their horns.  They chant, sing and yell as they line up.  There seemed to be a caravan at least 4x a week. 

Don Lito leads the caravan this day

This is a good excuse to let your uninhibited side show

Always an opportunity to earn a few pennies.  $1 each ... but make about $300 worth of sound!

These poor little pick-ups are back heavy!!

A day for Carlos our neighbor.

We were trying to get out to a canton this day and accidentally ended up within this caravan for about 2 blocks.  We turned off as quickly as we could!  (The Pastoral House does not openly declare political allegience!)

Every party has their uninhibited supporters!

I missed the GANA caravan ... but they took over the streets near the park

And they had a clown ... I'm NOT talking about Freddy!  Honest.

Someone told me that Rafael from ARENA did not have caravans - he did not want to waste that kind of money.  His uptown rallies were either on days we were not in town, or in the evenings.  Sadly, I have no pictures of their events!!!

But aside from the caravans, every day and evening, we have had revelers enthralling us with the noise of their enthusiasm for whichever party they represented.  I suspect we got more than some neighborhoods because of our proximity to Carlos: the CN candidate.  The parties love to annoy each other!  

Each party has its own theme song.  And those of you who live here know that ‘louder is better.’   So even when there wasn’t a caravan, or some rally in the park that needed to be advertised loudly, or a random truck full of enthusiastic (read that: loud) party supporters, we often also just had the stray car with 3’ tall and wide speakers on the roof blaring the accolades of their candidate of choice. 

And, lamentablamente, (unfortunately), everyone is selling the cheap – and very loud – horns on the street.  Of course, they are available in the political party color of your choice.  Although I didn’t see GANA orange …

I bought a blue one … not because I am flouting a particular party – but when this is all over, I will have a blue horn – representing the blue in the El Salvador flag.

So now it is quiet.  And has been for a couple of days.  It’s rather lovely.  I can hear the distant roosters and dogs again.  With only the distant and random blowing of those obnoxious horns. 

Tomorrow is the big day.  Elections will be held at the high school which has been closed since Wednesday.  Lucky students have had most of the week off while they prepare the site.  There are also election sites in a few of more distant cantons: El Tablón, Loma Alta and Corozal.  This, in theory, makes voting more accessible. 

There are some potential pitfalls to that accessibility though.  For example: those in El Recreo will probably have to go vote in Loma Alta.  Transportation would be difficult between those two communities.  Even though every party pays for the big flat-bed trucks for their voters, the road between Loma Alta and El Recreo is pretty bad. 

They are also concerned about ‘security’ and safety.  People can get pretty – shall we say – emphatic – when it comes to their ideologies.  And in theory, there is no liquor being sold on Election Day – but we know better.  And the police force here in Berlín is quite small.  And we can’t call in too much support from other locations, because all the communities will be in the same Election Day boat.

And … the ballots themselves have changed.  You don’t just put the X on the party flag of your choice anymore … there are now two ballots: one for mayor and the other one for the 5 deputy candidates – for whom you can either put your X on the party’s flag or just put your X over a couple of the faces under your parties flag.  There is a TON of confusion about that.  Can you vote for 2 ARENA deputies, 2 FMLN and one CN ?? or just however many you like under one flag?  I get a variety of answers from everyone. 

Tim’s Blog does a fabulous explanation of this so I won’t repeat it here.  If you are ever craving real “meat” about political/social events and attitudes here in El Salvador, I would suggest you check out his blog.  It is very well done!  All you need do is google: Tim’s El Salvador Blog.

Here in Berlin, it looks like it could be a relatively tight race.  There is a bit of disappointment with how the last term with Don Lito passed: lack of promises kept, community support only for those who visibly support the party … that kind of stuff.  And a couple of the other candidates have a pretty powerful voice so it seems.  We’ll see soon enough.

I am hoping that tomorrow they will let me into the voting site with my camera.  I’ll let you know how that goes.


rubireyes said...

We are also on the main parade route so I know exactly how you feel about the noise. It has been fun to watch though, and my son has loved picking up the T shirts and cups that the participants throw down to him.

kathy said...

Hey... no fair! No one threw ME any shirts. Altho my neighbor gave me a great vinyl poster of himself. Life-sized Carlos on my door! I wish I had one for all the candidates ... might go climbing walls to get a few after all is said and done!