The rhythm of the train.
The swish of fabrics, zippers zipping every ten minutes as the travelers check and re-check that they still have their cédulas. No cédula, no vote. They laugh at each other’s nervousness, five ticos who’ve joined forces for the six-hour round trip from Frankfurt to Berlin.
Out in the cold, where the line spills out of the building and along the street, another round of sounds emerges. Familiar accents. Jokes about politics, but never bitter. The little negotiations of a long wait, the holding of spots as people nip out for a coffee or snack.
Another sound, another rhythm, has drawn her to here today, to this bit of sidewalk just steps from the Spree: the particular gait with which her great-grandfather used to walk. He was almost killed in 1944 when he was carrying ballots to Alajuela, in an election whose unrest Costa Rica has never seen since. For the rest of his life, he dragged one foot, never regained full mobility in one hand, the cost of defending suffrage.
His descendents never forgot it. No distance to travel would seem too far for them, no line too long, when they thought back on what he gave so that votes, once cast, would not be cast aside.
The sound of a finger drawing down a posted list, a camera snapping a joyful image. Today, as she finds her name among the 900 Costa Ricans registered to vote in Berlin, she is alone for the first time in her voting life: above and below her on the list, there are no siblings, no cousins, no aunts and uncles voting on the same day in the same place. But she’s not alone, even here. “I was with so many new friends, a new family, and a little family that we made in those six hours to and from Frankfurt,” she says. That new family might not know how her great-grandfather used to walk, but they’re all drawn forward in the line by that same spirit.
Emerging from her own vote on this February day, she finds that those still waiting have trembling chins, wet eyes. What happened? The National Anthem had just been sung. Later that afternoon, a violinist would play the Patriótica. They say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
How could there be? Those words, those wistful strains are so familiar—but here, they realize for the first time what they mean.
Inspired by Karla Hernández and her memories of participating in Costa Rica’s elections from Berlin, Germany, in February 2022. Her great-grandfather, Jenaro Carvajal, was among a group of men transporting electoral material to a counting station on February 13, 1944, when pro-government forces demanded that they turn over the material. When they refused, one man, Timoleón Morera, was killed; Jenaro was gravely injured, as detailed by Alberto Cañas in “Los Ocho Años,” quoted here.
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.
This video, shared with us by Karla, was recorded by a voter in Berlin: