One of the first things a new visitor to Safe Passage comments on these days is the abundance of billboards lining Guatemala’s streets. As the September 11th national elections draw closer, candidates for mayor, senator, and president are making their campaigns hard to ignore.
One might ask why national elections would be held on a Sunday in a predominantly Catholic country. Traditionally, people have not had the right to change their registered voting location from the small towns to other cities. This has meant that people had to travel hours on crowded buses back to where they were born in order to vote. Not wanting the country to come to a complete stand-still while the population moved around, the elections have traditionally been on Sundays. The 2011 elections are the first in Guatemala’s history for which people can change their registration to the city in which they reside as opposed to the town listed on their birth certificate. Despite the newfound ability to change one’s official status, most employers will still be closed on Monday the 12th for a few reasons: some individuals have not registered their updated "datos;" some individuals travel to work in a different city than their city of residence; and others have moved since the April deadline to change one’s place of residence. Safe Passage in Guatemala will also be closed on Monday, September 12th.
There are currently 25 political parties supporting different candidates for president. If there is no clear winner in this round, candidates with the most votes will have to participate in a November run-off election. A few of our students will be voting for the very first time this year, while others interviewed who are more than 18 years old did not register in time or have no plans to vote.
Luis, an 18 year old from Johanna Yool's diversificado class is going to vote on Sunday for the first time. He will cast his vote in the nearby municipality of Villa Nueva, where he lives. He is excited to vote, but also views it as nothing special, just a part of being a responsible citizen and adult. He does feel that voting is a very important act–that all citizens who are able to should feel the civic responsibility to do so.
This weekend the ex-pat community will sit back and watch as things come to a standstill. All alcohol-selling establishments must close from mid-day Saturday the 10th through 3 p.m. Monday the 12th.
To follow this weekend’s election more closely please visit: