Sunday, March 25, 2012

vote for me!

last sunday the kids and i headed to a coworkers house to eat sancocho, a delicious dominican specialty soup. the day was lovely - we ate, drank, threw around a basketball and sang happy birthday to our coworker. then we headed home. and oh, i had no idea that the little political rally taking place in the rec center near our house was anything more than a little political rally.

we were dropped off where we could take a public car home - a quick 15 minute ride. except, that little political rally, was actually a caminata through the city showcasing the support that the ruling party has garnished in santiago.

see, politics here is... well, it's different. and i won't claim to understand it, because i don't. the country has had only 2 presidents since the death of their semi-dictator, joaquin balaguer, died in the mid-90s. from 1996-2000, leonel fernandez was in the presidential palace, but was booted out from 2000-2004 for apparently sucking at his job during his first term. but, hipolito mejia came along and just about exploded the peso and got booted out in 2004 by, you guessed it, leonel fernandez.

and leonel has been in office since then, but his time is up.
and the politics are on.

so, danilo medina (from the same party as leonel) is running against hipolito mejia (whose slogan is "here's your daddy"). and to ensure that leonel keeps his foot in the door, his wife is running as danilo's vice president.

see, different.

but this has nothing to do with this post. this has to do with why a 15 minute car ride took an hour and 40 minutes.

you see, campaigns here are up-close and personal. while there are a fair amount of television ads and the country is plastered in billboards and posters proclaiming victory for "our country", the majority of votes come from some real door-to-door vote-seeking. it's not uncommon to see groups of people, dressed in the party colors, waving flags and chanting on street corners during rush hours. pickup trucks equipped with huge speakers drive through the city playing popular songs whose lyrics have been changed to represent the candidate's platform. and because the country is so small, it's easy for the candidate's themselves to make personal appearances at rallies.

so we ran into this insanity. girls dressed in yellow tights and purple tees - the party colors - dirty dancing on a flatbed truck, flags waving relentlessly. impromptu stages set up on virtually every.single.corner of every.single.street that our driver tried to turn down to avoid the traffic jams.

by the time we made it home that little political rally near our house was completely cleared out - not a giant SUV covered in slogans and not one single school bus jam packed with supporters waiting to start the march. they had moved on to bigger and better things that day - holding up traffic all over our side of the world.

the only remnant of the craziness was this lone pickup on our street - giant over sized speakers and political propaganda covering the sides. sadly (for me), the political season is just getting started - we've got two months left until the big presidential election. - we might be staying indoors more often than not in the coming weeks -


Lindsay said...

Leonel lost against Hipolito as he didnt stand! He was forbidden by the Constitution to stand again and so the PLD candidate was none other than Danilo Medina who has the personality of a dead fish. So he lost against Hippo (and no doubt leonel was very happy). Hippo was a disaster and so easy for Leonel to get back in and change the constitution so he could stay in for 8 years. Now same thing, not allowed to run again and Danilo is trying again.

melanie. said...

lindsay, you're right! i forgot that nuance, which is strange because i am ALWAYS complaining about the change-ability of the constitution here. the point is still valid though, that in a country of many talented people, for some reason, there are only two or three deemed "presidential." and they are all pretty unimpressive.

Lalique said...

passing here from google
blog visit from Turkey dear

jewel said...

I remember seeing the billboards for the candidate with the slogan here's papa. I was so confused by that and remember asking the interpreter.... why is the slogan saying he is papa if he is running for president. I think it probably speaks a lot to the view of the presidency or role of government in the DR compared to other democracies. Or perhaps maybe it's the view of that party only. Anyway, imagine Obama or Romney or Santorum, etc running a race with the slogan here comes daddy! NOT! Thanks for another good post. I will be in touch soon.

beastwood said...

I dunno, the whole Papi thing in general is still different for me as a white dude now married to a Dominican woman. It is cultural, and opens many questions about male domination and roles in the family in general in the RD. I mean if Hippo (or his base)feels empowered by calling the man Papi, good for him. I am routinely called Papi now, and it does not mean much. More of an old habit of my wife, who when pushed why she calls me papi, will take great pleasure in shoving a broom into my hands. She knows i know how to use it and any other weapons of house cleaning. And this is not her experience with her brothers or Dad, hence one partial razon for me winning the hand of my bride i expect.

I love that woman. Her real papi,her dad, was over the other night. My wife was preparing a meal for "her men". She was working hard while I entertained (read drank and solved the world's problems with), my father in law.

He badgered her a little to hurry up with the food. And as the Jumbo Brahma bottle went dry, he called to my sweaty cooking wife to fetch another bottle. Ahhh the look she gave me as if to say, "Ok papi # 2, get your white gringo as* in here and get papi # 1 his know better, he may not, but you do!".

It's all a learning curve. Because what in Boston would be correct form (me entertaining AND HELPING in the kitchen), would be bad form in this Dominican house. So I rely on my wife to set the boundaries. The boundary lesson here; wife cooks for her Dad and me, but we damn well get our own beer.

melanie. said...

beastwood, thanks for stopping by! you make a valid point - and i think that is what hipolito is trying to do with his slogan "llego papa" - not so much in the "papi chulo" sense, but in the "abuelito" way, that he is the protector of the "family" and if he is president it will run like one big happy dysfunctional family. that said, i don't much like either candidate and my biggest frustration is the apparent lack of presidential candidates - there HAS to be something more, but all we're given is papa and danilo (read: leonel)