Als je denkt dat stemmen overal het zelfde gaat, heb je het fout. Want in Ecuador is de verkiezing niet het belangrijkste (dit gebeurt toch vaker dan om de 4 jaar). Tijdens de verkiezingsdag ben je bij familie. Samen geniet je van lekker eten en struin je langs de winkelkraampjes die speciaal voor de verkiezingen zijn opgezet.
Our right to vote!
Last Sunday 19th February was an important day for democracy in Ecuador, the day when every Ecuadorian applies for their constitutional right to vote. Interesting to know is that in Ecuador, as perhaps in other countries as well, it is compulsory for everyone to vote. So in my case (living in Quito) I packed all my stuff and flew to my hometown Guayaquil, where I am registered to vote. A perfect excuse as well to spend a nice time with my family back home!
As a proof that you voted, you receive a voting certificate. This tiny little paper is needed for almost every public or private transaction, such as opening a bank account, getting a loan, getting a job, social security, among others. What most people (including me) do after voting is to put this tiny little paper in plastic, so it will be a valuable companion in your wallet until the next elections in 4 years (although in Ecuador they could happen more often). It is very easy to find a stand that offers this service, as they can be found everywhere around the polling station that you are assigned to. Prices range from USD 0,20 to USD 0,50 per certificate).
A whole world of local gastronomy
But election day is not only to use your citizen’s right or walk big distances (main streets around the election districts are usually closed, so it is also a good day to exercise). This day you can find a great variety of local delicious dishes as well, as many people like to both vote and eat together with their families.
In Guayaquil I could enjoy delicious maduros (grilled sweet plantain), pinchos (brochettes, or chuzos as we call them here) from all kinds of (unrecognizable) meet. For the hot and rainy season at the coast the typical big buckets of fresh orange juice and water were present, too.
I thought it would be interesting to ask all my friends about typical food that is being sold near the polling stations in the cities where they had to vote. And that was a lot… The more friends I spoke to, the more I realized how big this cultural habit of eating out on election day is. The offer throughout the country was huge: pork and mote (type of grain) and tripas (intestines) in parts of the Highlands, more grilled plantains and chuzos in other coastal cities, and guatita (both on the Coast and in the Andes were all fully sold. This last one is a classic peculiar dish made of one of the cow’s stomach, served in a peanut sauce – the Ecuadorian way!
Not only food is a big attraction on this day. Many “informal” sellers take this big opportunity for any extra sale they can make. All over the streets you can find accessories, hats, sunglasses, and all kind of chucherias (baubles) all over. Isn’t this day getting more and more complete? It´s like a big street mall on one side and an endless food court on the other side.
Unfortunately (for some people) there is also a downside to the election weekend. From midday on Friday until midday on Monday, alcohol is prohibited due to - what is known in Ecuador as the Ley Seca (Dry Law). During this ban it is absolutely illegal for everyone to buy, sell or drink alcohol, although some may not follow the rules and figure out a way to enjoy a drink or more. Others prefer to buy some extra alcoholic beverages in advance.
Keep this in mind as you would have to try your snacks or local dishes with plain water. Otherwise a soda or freshly prepared juice is not a bad option either. This alcohol ban applies every time there is an election day in Ecuador.
A very important family day
In different electoral districts people are divided by their last name, in alphabetical order. This is maybe why election day turned out to be a family day as most of the families vote at the same place due to the name they have in common. In most other cases the mother has a different last name and should go to a different electoral district: well, no problem, they all end up going together to two or three polling stations if they have to, together as family.
This makes the day a little longer, and after walking here and there, queueing and voting, people feel the urge to ease the little hungry monster. Ecuadorian people love their traditions, especially when they can combine to fulfill an important duty together with family members and eating delicious food, resulting in a true family day-out.
So what a nice way to practice your constitutional rights in the company of your family, surrounded by street baubles and of course lots of food for convenient prices, don´t you think? Experience and ¨try¨ small bites of the Ecuadorian culture, all in one day.
See you again in 4 years (or probably earlier ;) )
Wil jij weten hoe je nog dichterbij de locals kunt komen tijdens jouw reis door Ecuador? Neem een kijkje op onze Meet the Locals pagina.