Katherine Stanley, Gaby Brenes and Alexander Villegas (Tico Times) talk to Epsy Campbell, Costa Rica’s vice president-elect. Her take on race issues in Latin America is especially compelling: “I became aware the next day of how little progress, perhaps, we have made on a democratic level if in 2018 the Americas have such cause to celebrate an Afro-descendent female vice president. This should be normal on a continent with 200 million Afro-descendent people.” Here are just a few excerpts of their interview.
Campbell holds an undergraduate degree in economics and two Master’s degrees, one in international cooperation for development and the other in advanced political management and decision-making techniques. She is a widely published author and speaker.
[. . .] Shortly afterward, you stepped onto that stage as the first Afro-descendant woman ever to become vice president in the Americas.
You’re not so aware of what you’re doing until you look back. I went up there simply as Epsy Campbell, the person I’ve always been. In those moments, you only think about what you are, one more person. You don’t tell yourself every day, “You’re afrodescendiente. You’re a mom.” You just are, and it was that happy woman – Afro-descendent, of course – who stepped up onto that stage.
The next day I started realizing, without being certain what was happening, that this was a historic moment not just in this country, but also throughout the Americas. I realized this because of international headlines and because they started calling me constantly from very different places: Brazil, Colombia, the United States, Spain. I said: What is going on? Because the truth is, I’ve become completely accustomed to my participation in Costa Rican politics, so of course, I took on the candidacy for the vice presidency and became the vice president-elect, and that was just the next step.
In addition, since I am a woman, it had become something bigger. I became aware the next day of how little progress, perhaps, we have made on a democratic level if in 2018 the Americas have such cause to celebrate an Afro-descendent female vice president. This should be normal on a continent with 200 million Afro-descendent people. This should be extremely normal in a country like Brazil where there are more than 100 million Afro-descendents. But it’s not normal. It’s an exception.
After so much struggle, the Afro-descendents of Latin America have representation for the first time on the level I will now attain with Carlos Alvarado, and that is symbolic.
The voting patterns in this election drew new attention to the huge inequalities between rural and urban Costa Rica. What are the administration’s priorities in terms of attention to rural economies, especially coastal zones?
We are creating regional development proposals for the first time… to generate jobs and leverage the capacity in every one of those areas, facilitating access to resources and productive activities. We are going to start with the poorest territories… through infrastructure, quality education, and an aggressive program of bilingualism. [. . .]