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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Elections in Pococí: the youth vote

Laura Salas Espinoza
Laura Salas Espinoza
Laura es representante estudiantil en diversas áreas de la Universidad Estatal a Distancia (UNED), donde disfruta al máximo la experiencias que le permite formarse como persona y profesional. Le encanta aprender y compartir su conocimiento. // Laura is a student representative on various topics at the State Distance University (UNED), where she enjoys learning as a person and professional. She loves to study and share her knowledge.

One of three reports prepared by journalists from rural communities in Costa Rica as part of our current edition, “The Lineup.” The objective: to show their perspectives on how three different cantons—La Cruz de Guanacaste, Pococí de Limón, and Osa, Puntarenas—experienced Election Day, February 6th, 2022.

When I arrived at the Escuela Excelencia de Ticabán, in Pococí , Limón, on Election Sunday, I was able to observe many people at the school: among them, community leaders and voters, and supporters of various parties. However, I can say with great confidence that no one there was as moved as my sister, Karol Salas, 20 years old. 

Karla had come to the Escuela Excelencia de Ticabán to exercise her vote for the first time in her life. She exuded joy—the fortune of living in a free country, where women can exercise their rights. On this occasion, it was the right to vote for the election of the next president and legislators of Costa Rica. 

“I feel very happy to be able to vote for the first time, and with a mix of emotions,” said Karol. “It is a beautiful experience to feel like a free and independent woman, and to be able to make this important decision.”

Karol Salas, 20, votes for the first time at the Escuela Excelencia de Ticabán, in Pococí, Limón, on Sunday, February 6th, 2022. Laura Salas / El Colectivo 506

Ticabán is located in the province of Limón, in the canton of Pococí and in the district of La Rita. It is a rural community where pineapple and banana plantations are the main source of employment; people in my community who have jobs usually perform some function related to these fruits, which are exported. It is a beautiful place that has an elementary and high school where children and adolescents can study and aspire to a better future. 

Some people who live in the area experience the elections in a very emotional way, wearing flags or other items from various political parties. However, this excitement did not prevail in all households. Following the trend of the majority of the country, almost half of Rita’s voters—47.29%—remained at home, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal

As a student representative at the State Distance University (UNED), I conducted several interviews within the framework of the elections, speaking with UNED students from different areas of the country. My goal was to learn more about their opinions and what they value when choosing how to vote. In the 2022 electoral context, the topics of greatest interest to the interviewees included the reduction of poverty; the digital gap and the problems of poor connectivity that they often experience; and the limited sources of employment once they finish their studies.

Some people in Pococí experienced the political campaign with suspense and intensity, and were very excited to cast their right to vote; however, others felt distressed because they still did not know who to vote for, or they were afraid of making a bad decision. Several people with whom we were able to talk at the school said that they were pleased to be participating, but disappointed in the quality of the candidates. 

Geovanny López is a community leader in Pococí. In the days before the election, he urged people to vote, raising awareness about the transportation options available to voters. On Election Day, Geovanny said that he was very happy to be able to support this process. He has participated in various elections in this way, motivating others to participate. 

Geovanny López, a community leader in Pococí, speaks with Laura Salas on Election Day. Laura Salas / El Colectivo 506

How could Costa Rica’s central government generate greater community involvement in politics? As a resident of La Rita my whole life, I feel that the only way to do it is for the government to carry out its plans. People often express feelings of being ignored and deceived, since a proposal is made but never acted on. Also, the government should ensure the development of strategies to create action plans that address rural residents’ needs and generate more sources of employment, better education, and improved living conditions. 

Like Geovanny, Walter Villalta, another voter with years of involvement in politics and development in Pococí, said on Election Day that he thinks it is very important to continue motivating people to vote, especially young people.

“I’ve been working in community development associations for more than 30 years,” said Walter. “For us, it’s a great thing that our mayor has a ‘godfather’ in the Legislative Assembly to be able to come up with bills for this area. Let’s remember that we are a rural area. We need to advance projects such as aqueducts, asphalt and road improvements. We like to teach young people from our experience so they understand that politics is very important if we’re going to achieve goals for the development of our people.”

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