Some weeks back, I volunteered to devote the week before the election to my two compañeras who are running for diputada, to help them with whatever I could. So we are on a whirlwind set of visits to communities that they have not been able to reach previously, and I will be reporting as we go along.
The campaign has taken an unfortunate turn in the last few weeks: Doña Fermina was disqualified as a candidate. I do not know all the details and if I did, I might not understand them, but as far as I can gather, this was not because the Supreme Electoral Tribunal found her credentials lacking or encountered another irregularity, but because one of the three parties that comprise the Broad Left Front, the Alternative for a New Nation (ANN) refused to support her candidacy. Something like that. I haven't had a chance to have someone who understands what went on to sit down and explain it to me, but if I do succeed, I will share what I know with the readers of this blog.
I had learned about this a few weeks ago but had been asked not to say anything to Fermina or to anyone, and so I did not, but just continued to work with Fermina and Matilde together as a team.
Last week we went to a "concentration" (I guess the equivalent word would be "rally") in the town of Chiché. We met up with a small delegation from the Frente Amplio -- one of the candidates for deputy on the national list, Hector Nuila, and someone from the URNG who was accompanying him, taking photographs, etc. There are congress people who are elected as departmental representatives (Doña Matilde and Doña Fermina are running as representatives of the department of Quiché), and then there are "at large" congress people (deputies on the national list). As I understand it, only people in a particular department can vote for the departmental representatives, while everyone in the country gets to weigh in on the national list. The vice presidential candidate, Anibal Garcia, was supposed to have been there, but when we went to the meeting point outside of Santa Cruz, we were told that he had had to stay in Guatemala because there were problems with more than a dozen slates of candidates and the national leadership of the Frente was calling a press conference to discuss the situation.
So we packed up and headed off to Chiché. I have only seen Guatemalan political rallies from a distance or involuntarily, like the time I was trapped in my car in San Pedro Jocopilas while the faithful of the Partido Patriota gathered. So I find it hard to judge how this rally went. There were people waiting for us at the entrance to Chiché. I stayed in the car while the candidates and my daughter and a friend of hers who were both visiting from the U.S. jumped out and joined the crowd. I threw some cameras at the kids (they are both over 21 but still kids in my book) and asked them to take pictures as I needed to stay with the truck and make sure we had it available at the end of the rally.
It was a bright, sunny day -- at least during the time we were out -- and the sun bore down heavily on the walkers. We moved through the town, winding through streets and ending up near the Calvario -- a church up the hill on the first street you come to when entering Chiché from the east. A stage had been erected there, and I parked the car and made my way through the crowd so I could get up on stage and take photographs.
There were several hundred people present, who were very patient as the rally involved a fair amount of ceremoniality. Introductions of the introducers, acknowledgement of all and sundry. This seems to typify public events in Guatemala -- a lot of formality, introducing everyone with a full biography including all the degrees and diplomas they have, acknowledging everyone who contributed in any way.
The speeches were good, and moving. Both Matilde and Fermina spoke in both K'iche' and Spanish; the candidate for deputy on the national list, Hector Nuila, also spoke, and the URNG representative managed to get Anibal Garcia, the vice-presidential candidate, on the phone and put the phone on speaker in front of the microphone so that Anibal could address the crowd in absentia.
People seemed in good spirits; I find it hard, however, to read the energy level of the crowd, and to figure out whether any of this translates into actual votes come Sunday.