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Latin America’s 1st ever black female VP — A Jamaican?

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On April 1, when jokesters, pranksters and April foolers of the day tricked family and friends with carefully constructed misdeeds, in the Central American nation of Costa Rica, Epsy Alejandra Campbell Barr was elected the very, first of her race to win the second-most sought after seat in government.

Back in the day, on a show dubbed “The A-Team” Mr. T would offer a cautionary response to adversaries saying “Pity the fool,” to anyone doubting his mettle and might.

However, the date also marked Easter, the Christian celebration of a resurrection recorded in the Bible as a catalyst to transformation, spiritual reconciliation and atonement.

On the Sunday when all the votes were tallied and the final count were announced in the capital city of San Jose, the conservative, evangelical slate headed by Fabricio Alvarado had to concede the fact that he had been defeated and the results were neither an April fool’s joke nor a religious confirmation of his anti-gay stance.

An even bigger concession was that a Black, woman — liberal candidate Campbell-Barr won by a landslide to serve with Carlos Alvarado (no relation), president-elect and strong supporter of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights whipped him despite his right-wing preaching and championing the cause of conservatism.

The loser promised to maintain a status quo with regard to any reforms that would empower the homosexual community there.

He allegedly also feuded with the electoral tribunal, which scolded him for failing to submit financial declarations properly.

It was a divisive and bitter contest and Campbell-Barr and Alvarado ran on a platform promising unity, rebuilding of infrastructure, and parity of the sexes.

Together they swept their opponent’s totals capturing 61 percent of the votes.

Campbell-Barr’s approach to the campaign was different, she reportedly reached out to Black Costa Ricans, saying she was “proudly” one of them and urged them to vote “for an inclusive Costa Rica, a Costa Rica where we have a place.”

This feminist candidate also reached out to women, informing them they are the “driving force of 21st-century Costa Rica.”

She vowed to narrow the gender pay gap.

On the fabled day — this year which marked levity and holiness — news of the election of the vice-president overshadowed that of the youngest elected president ever in its 70-year history as a Democratic nation, another aspect which must have been a sobering reality to the loser.

At age 38, the next leader offers radical changes, the most obvious, a female, Afro-Costa Rican vice president.

Her election sounded like an alarm around the world because in the process of winning she blazed a trail for her gender and birth land becoming the first ever of her race to win the position on the continent.

Many more will wake up to her arrival on May 8 when Campbell- Barr is sworn in as the first person of African descent to serve as Costa Rica vice-president.

“It would not be the first only in Costa Rica, but in Latin America, and eventually, if the president leaves the country, (would be) the first woman of African descent to assume the presidency in the entire American continent. It’s a big responsibi­lity,” Campbell-Barr stated.

“It will be a responsibility not only to represent people of African descent but to represent all women and men in the country, a country that gives us all the same opportunit­ies,” she added.

Her historic election made headlines throughout Latin America. The pioneering milestone also resonated with Jamaicans who have claimed the winner a daughter of the land of wood and water which the Caribbean island is acclaimed.

“Her roots are from Yard, she is the grandchild of Jamaicans,” a proud national declared.

“She’s named after her paternal grand mom and she’s proud of her Jamaican heritage.”

Born in the capital city of San Jose, on July 4, 1963, Campbell-Barr is named after her paternal grandmother Epsy — who migrated from Jamaica with her husband to settle on the Costa Rican Caribbean coast.

She is the fourth child of a family of five daughters and two sons.

She married at a young age and became a mother when she was just starting her university studies.

She now has two daughters, Narda and Tanisha.

Reportedly, she lived in the Caribbean for 10 years, but returned to San Jose, where she graduated as an economist from the Latin University of Costa Rica in 1998.

The daughter of immigrants attained a master’s degree in international cooperation and development and advanced management techniques and political decision from the Foundation for Cultural and Social Sciences of Spain in 2008.

Reportedly she has always been active in her community and served in the legislature between 2002 and 2006 before running for vice-president in 2006.

While making that bid, Campbell-Barr led a grassroots approach to help her campaign travelling in a recreational vehicle (RV) around the country to get her anti-corruption and accountability message out to voters.

She is a researcher and activist for the rights of women and people of African descent, and entered politics because she wanted to become a social activist.

The fact she is also an economist and a founder of the ruling Citizens’ Action Party in 2000 cannot be understated.

The 54-year-old champion has published books and articles on economic participation, democracy, sexism, racism and people of African descent.

Throughout her ascent to the pinnacle of the Costa Rican political process, she has been actively involved in Afro-Caribbean affairs and in 1996 founded the Women’s Forum of Central American Integration, an initiative she coordinated until 2001.

Epsy Campbell-Barr has been the head of the Center for Women of African Descent, the Alliance of Leaders of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Black Parliament of the Americas.

Campbell-Barr attended the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and makes no bones about being a fan of her role model — she has maintained that her political influence was empowered by former President Barack Obama.

March was Women’s History Month and Campbell-Barr seems to be extending the acknowledgements to April and May by enhancing the profile of her race and gender on an entire continent.

Catch You On The Inside!

Posted 12:00 am, April 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Johnny Vargas from Costa Rica says:
Just a small observation, Costa Rica will celebrate 200 years as a democratic Republic, not 70 years as mentioned on your article, another interesting fact is that Ms Campbell Bar is a hell of a lot better prepared to be President that the president elect himself, which proves women ( and black women on this case) have to do twice as much as men to be recognize half, luckily is not that difficult, that is the message she is sending, and that is exactly what she is fighting for, to make things equal for everyone in our society.

God Bless Mrs. Epsy Campbell Bar, hopefully her party will do a great job on this term and she will someday become our president. (Costa Rica)
April 17, 6:02 am

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