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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

So near and so far: voting in color

Katherine Stanley Obando
Katherine Stanley Obando
Katherine (Co-Fundadora y Editora) es periodista, editora y autora con 16 años de vivir en Costa Rica. Es también la co-fundadora de JumpStart Costa Rica y Costa Rica Corps, y autora de "Love in Translation." Katherine (Co-Founder and Editor) is a journalist, editor and author living in Costa Rica for the past 16 years. She is also the co-founder of JumpStart Costa Rica and Costa Rica Corps, and author of "Love in Translation."

When you love Costa Rica, you know that even though it’s tiny, it holds so many worlds. So it’s strange to think that Central America is often seen as small, a single block. Worse, it’s sometimes simply lumped in elsewhere, an afterthought, an annex to Mexico or South America. This isthmus encompasses so many realities. So many spheres of experience, of culture and language, of wealth and poverty. Some of these are defined by borders; some spill over, mix and blend.

So it is that in the heart of Guatemala City, these Costa Rican voters marvel at the sense of home just like the voters in Berlin or Madrid or Seoul. They feel the same scifi-portal sensation when they step across the threshold of the Embassy. They notice the little differences: Guatemalans involved in the process find it strange that Costa Ricans wear their parties’ colors on their shirts, wave flags high. In Guatemala, this is strictly prohibited on election day.

Those who don’t wear party colors? Many sport a Sele jersey. It’s an explosion of red and white and blue, or green and white, or yellow. A voting rainbow, a list of 400, lingers behind for a while once the votes are cast, listening to traditional music, sampling food that makes them homesick.

They walk back out into Guatemala knowing that here, the barriers to free and independent voting are much higher. They walk out knowing that back home, too, turnout drops and drops. Like every Costa Rican who votes abroad, they walk out full of pride, and a certain wistfulness: “It’s a pity people don’t want to vote,” she says. “It’s just a pity.”

Inspired by Susana Ramírez Loáiciga and her memories of participating in Costa Rica’s elections from Guatemala City in February 2022. Our weekly Media Naranja column tells short love stories with a Costa Rican twist. During our March edition, “The Lineup,” we’re focusing on the love of country that Costa Ricans demonstrate—and sometimes rediscover—when voting from abroad.

A flag at the Costa Rican Embassy in Guatemala City. Cortesía Susana Ramírez / El Colectivo 506


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