Upon hearing that Costa Rica elected its first female president yesterday, She’s the First sought a young woman with ties to Costa Rica to blog about what this historic win means for the women and girls of Latin America. We found Jasmine Pope, a freshman at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, who first visited Costa Rica for service work in 2008 and will return this summer for an internship. Below, her thoughts on the soon-to-be-inaugurated President Laura Chinchilla:
Though I was always infatuated with Latin America, I became actively involved in Costa Rican politics and culture when I visited the country in June 2008. Upon arrival, I instantly fell in love with the people and the motto “Pura Vida” or Pure Life.
Although we lived on opposite sides of the equator, I was surprised to learn that my experiences and ambitions were very similar to my peers in Costa Rica. Therefore, I guess I missed out on the “culture shock” that many people talk about. Au contraire, las abuelas, or the grandmothers, in my town were like my own in the States. Like my own mother, mothers in Costa Rica shared the similar desire to live a fulfilled life outside the home while caring for and raising their children.
These commonalities among women across the globe highlight the significant achievement of Laura Chinchilla. In Costa Rica, gender roles are more rigid than those in the United States. This intensifies the difficulty that women experience in rejecting traditional domestic roles. One of my Costa Rican friends revealed to me that her family initially disapproved of her when she decided to pursue higher education at the local university.
Following the progressive and prosperous years of outgoing President Oscar Arias-Sanchez, Costa Rica will continue to advance with the inauguration of Laura Chinchilla. Chinchilla is the protege of President Arias, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and international pro-activist against Central American violence and guerrilla warfare. As an advocate of standardized Costa Rican education based on the concept that “every town will have a school” and economic trade with US and China, Arias exemplifies a charismatic and well-liked figure. These ideologies served the best interest of Chinchilla.
Revolutionary sentiments that swept through the United States in our past presidential election have influenced the Costa Rican elections. Supporters are hopeful that Chinchilla’s political influence will continue the progressive change that has already begun with Arias. Meanwhile, Chinchilla, as a strong social conservative and devoted mother, gives hope to women across Latin America who seek to live fulfilling lives outside of the traditional place in the home while still maintaining their motherhood.
- NY Times: Costa Rica Elects First Female President