The importance of yesterday's election went beyond the borders of the United States, and for that reason I'm taking a short break in the story telling of the Independence weekend in Cuenca.
For as long as I've been in Ecuador, people have asked me about the election and if I liked McCain or Obama. I have yet to meet an Ecuadorian who would prefer McCain as president, and though we consider this country by our standards to be 3rd world, they are up to date on the latest political news.
Yesterday I was hanging out with some new friends that I'd made Saturday night, and the first thing they wanted to talk about was the election and the fact that Obama's grandmother had died the day before. One of their issues was that most of the soldiers dying in Iraq were Latinos. I have no knowledge of the backgrounds of the soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world, but I would have to agree that some of the people who join the military are those who have little economic option.
A lot of people in Cuenca are against the war for various reasons, but one is that a local woman from Cuenca had married a U.S. soldier and moved with him to the United States. Shortly after they were married, he was sent to Iraq and subsequently killed in action. The woman is now left alone in the United States with no family.
So in other words, this election was a big deal, not just for the citizens of the United States, but for all over the world. Casey was staying up in Cuenca another night, so we crowded around my laptop as the polls started to close and eagerly scanned nytimes.com and cnn.com, trying to see which was going faster.
It was a little annoying hitting refresh every few minutes, but it was worth it to keep up with what was going on. After finding a few other sites with projection information and exit polls, we could see the election was moving along steadily. As the east coast started to close, we'd heard that the same gringo bar where we'd watched the elections a few weeks earlier was showing CNN International.
We headed over and found a bunch of other ex-pats and travelers cheering loudly as Ohio was just being called for Obama. For the next hour or so only a few states slowly pulled in, and at times it was painful listening to the pundits saying the same things over and over again, but exciting to be waiting for the results. Everyone in the bar knew that this was important.
Will.I.Am. came on to talk to Wolf Blitzer via Hologram, maybe the wierdest thing I've ever seen on TV, and as we joked and made fun of the new technology, we wondered if it was actually for security, so that if Obama was elected president he would appear via Hologram to avoid any trouble.
Finally, CNN announced that Virginia had gone to Obama, and just a few minutes later they announced that Obama had won the election. At first we were a bit unsure, because after all, it's just a news station guessing that he'll win, and not official. But as the bar started to cheer, the scenes from Chicago were broadcast and it seemed unofficially official.
And just a few minutes after that, John McCain came on to speak to his supporters in Arizona, conceding the election to Barack Obama. It was a bit unreal, that now one of the most historic, if not the most historic elections in our nations' history was over. We were all exhausted but wanted to hear Obama speak, so we had to wait around until 12 a.m. our time.
The reception in Chicago seemed loud and on the verge of delerium, but contained as the president elect spoke. He looked tired and it must have been bittersweet, considering the recent loss of his grandmother, but at the same time must have been an overload of emtions that I can't imagine.
So the election is over and Barack Obama is now president of the United States of America. For now, the majority of ex-pats I know seem happy, as well as the Ecuadorians. Only time will tell how it plays out, but the buzz right now is that things are looking up. And that's always a good thing.