So, it's not clear what is happening with the election in Chinique -- the mayoral election, that is. A few days ago Caterino had told me they were going to repeat the election. Then a few days later, when I was at the radio station, my colleague Jeanet, was checking her Facebook (using my modem), and read a notice posted by a group called Orgullosamente del Quiché, saying that the mayor of Chinique had declared that there was not going to be a second round in his town. I asked her to read it to me, and then later I found the notice and read it out over the air (we do try to do a little bit of news).
That was Wednesday. Then the next day, Thursday, one of my acquaintances who is a member of the Patriota, dropped in. He lives up in Tapesquillo, a good 20-25 minute drive from the center of town, and does not usually come into town during the middle of the week. There was a knock at the door as I was trying finish up writing something and clean the house a little, and when I opened there was Don L. I greeted him and invited him in, expressed my surprise and pleasure to see him in town. We exchanged greetings, I asked after his wife and family, and then asked what brought him to town. "Oh, we have a little bit of trouble going on here in the town," he said. "What kind of trouble?" I asked (although I had a pretty good idea of what he was hinting at. "Well, it's a problem with the mayor, who says that he's still mayor, that he won the election," he replied. "Ah," I said. "First I thought that they were not going to repeat the election. Then they said that they were going to repeat the election. Then yesterday I heard that the mayor said there wasn't going to be a second round. So I don't know what's going to happen." "Yes, well," Don L said. "So people are not happy and we are going to have a meeting and then go over to the municipality" (the word "municipalidad" which literally means "municipality" is used here to mean"the municipal building" or "town hall"). The municipal building in Chinique is barely a building: it's one story, on the corner of the plaza where the church is located, and right next to the school. It's one story, and houses not only the mayor's office and whatever other municipal officials there are, but also some other public agencies.
We chatted for a few minutes about other things. I have told Don L, without going into much detail, that while we are friends - I stayed at his house the first time I was in Guatemala in 2009 -- that while I respect everyone's views, and I am not a Guatemalan and so my opinions probably don't really count for much, I support a different political party. I didn't say which one, and he hasn't asked me. This is a bit of a gray area for me. I am not about to pretend that I do not have preferences and strong views about Guatemalan politics. At the same time, I do not throw those in people's faces, especially not in my small town. I have only told a very few close friends here that my sympathies are with Winaq. I see no reason to call attention to my political views, especially as I fully recognize that Guatemalan politics need to be defined by Guatemalans; there have been enough centuries of outside involvement in the country's political affairs, and especially in the recent past, from our government and also U.S.-based corporations. At the same time, I have to be honest (while respectful). I am not going to lie and say I don't care, or that all the parties are the same to me. I do care, and they are not all the same. As Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote (although in a very different context she was writing about death), "I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned." And, as it turns out, most of the people with whom I am working closely (that is, activists in the community radio movement, and critical thinkers in general) have similar political leanings. But that doesn't mean that I don't have acquaintances and friends who support other political parties, or that I will not talk to people of differing views. For me, it is important to understand where the support lies for the right wing, especially here in Quiché where the hills are littered with bones and ash, where nearly every Maya family suffered in some way.
As a scholar (yeah, I do have to put on that hat every so often) I do not think that this prevents me from having a clear-eyed assessment of the political scene. In fact, some of the sharpest criticism that I have seen of Winaq and the Frente Amplio comes from within the ranks of the leadership. So I am able, I think, to analyze the political process and the political landscape without being blinded by my sympathies.
Returning to the narrative (there was one, wasn't there), after Don L. and I exchanged pleasantries, he headed off and I turned back to getting ready to leave. As I drove out of town, I decided to not go by my normal route but instead to drive up to the "main street", such as it is, and see if I could catch a glimpse of what was going on. My street is two blocks away from the main street, and depending upon which direction my car is facing, I either drive down my street two blocks to where it comes to a T, and then turn right to get out of town, or I make two left turns so that I am on the next parallel street, and go down THAT one two blocks to the T, and then right and out of town. I rarely drive the two blocks up to the main street since (a) there are big speed bumps and big potholes, and (b) there is nearly always more traffic. But I wanted to see what was happening so I went that way. There were a lot of people in the street, and as I passed the cross-street that goes past the muni (pronounced sort of like "moonie", but the "u" is a little shorter than the "oo" -- this is short for "municipalidad"), I looked to my right and saw a bunch of cops standing around, and several dozen people gathered on the veranda and on the sidewalk and grass in front of the muni. I drove on, and then decided to loop back (there's another way into town that goes past the volunteer fire station and puts you on the street in front of the muni). So I went to the edge of town and made a very sharp right and back up the hill and parked just in front of the ambulance of the volunteer firemen. In most communities, the volunteer or municipal fire squad are effectively the emergency medical squad, and are the first responders for most accidents and violent occurrences.
I hopped out, and saw a few familiar faces in the crowd. I pulled out the smaller of my two cameras (I mean, no way was I not going to call attention to myself, but I figured I'd be somewhat less intrusive with the smaller camera) and took a few photographs which are illustrating this blog. The police didn't seem to pay me much mind; they were mostly standing on the plaza across the street and observing the crowd. It looked like some people had entered the building, but as I was late, I didn't stay long, and just hopped back into my car and drove to Santa Cruz.
I later saw a report that there were 300 people present; I didn't see 300 people. I would estimate about 60 people at the municipal building proper, and another couple of dozen in the nearby streets. But there could have been more earlier...
So, we will see what happens. It's Sunday, market day, and so when I head out to do my shopping I will see what friends have to say about this.