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Campaigning with…Luis Alberto Villarreal, PAN

Campaigning with…

How do the mayoral candidates travel the city? Who accompanies them? What gifts do they give out to people? What do they get in return? To answer these sorts of questions, our reporter, Jesus Aguado rode along with the candidates as they made their campaign stops to talk to people in dozens of rural communities around the San Miguel municipality.

Political candidates in Mexico know that it does not matter where they hold a rally, there will always be certain archetypes in attendance—children, the abuelitas (elderly women), the drunken man. There will likely be street dogs fighting somewhere. This is all part of the expected folklore of the campaign.

Today, we begin our third phase of articles about the campaign for the 2018 local elections, which will occur on July 1, the same day as the national elections. In this issue, we present snippets of two campaigns, that of Luis Alberto Villarreal (PAN) and that of Héctor Robles (PRD). For the second time in a row, the PRI candidate, Ana Valeria Clares, agreed to an interview, only to have her team cancel on us, so she is not included in this story.

 

By Jesús Aguado

“I am the candidate who has visiting the most communities. I know my city, since I have visited every community and neighborhood over the last 21 years. People know me, I greet everybody,” said Luis Alberto Villarreal in an interview.

On Tuesday, May 22 at 4pm, I hitched a ride with Villarreal’s communications team in a Sprinter. We were heading to to Exhacienda de Peña Blanca, San Lucas, and Don Francisco—all communities on the road to Guanajuato.

However, when we reached the first community, the driver, Eduardo, announced that we were lost and would have to skip Peña Blanca and head straight to San Lucas.

The meeting point in San Lucas was adjacent to the community’s church. Three calves played in the distance while a team that had arrived early placed signs and other Villarreal propaganda in the area and set up the sound equipment. “Children, come, we will give you a clown,” clowns were calling out loudly. Those children started approaching, with the adults—most of them women—behind them.

A small bus arrived with female supporters who cheer for the candidate at each stop. One of those supporters danced with energy to some music, shaking pompoms. Children were entertained by the clowns and also got presents—a cap, an apron, or a T-shirt that will fit them in about 10 years.

With the audience gathered, mayoral candidate Luis Alberto Villarreal arrived and greeted everyone. “I do not leave a puppet with a head,” he said, meaning that he greets everyone—children, the young women, the elderly ladies, and, yes, the drunk men. He greets everyone near and far that he can see. He even seeks out those who are watching from a distance.

People were happy to see him. In San Lucas, the prevailing demand is not for more safety or less ugly housing developments or less traffic but for a bridge to cross the river and connect them with another community. The seek Internet, better roads, public spaces to sell their products. After the rally, dozens of women approached him with single or collective demands, which he listened to, making verbal commitments to solve.

When it was time to leave, I hitched a ride back, and the candidate joined us for an interview. He said he is happy because he has been 21 years in politics and knows the communities of San Miguel’s municipality. He assured me that his “battery” is full, even more fully charged in this campaign than ever before because people have responded to him so well. I asked him why he did not work on building a bridge in San Lucas when he was mayor. “At that time, they had other demands. We built the school [here],” he said.

After about 30 minutes, we arrived in Don Francisco at the entrance to the main street where a wind instrument band was standing ready to surprise the candidate with a musical escort to the main plaza. While the band played, the candidate again greeted every single person he encountered.

“I know that sometimes we are blue, but every day we get strength from our children, because as parents we want a better future for them,” he told the crowd. “We want a city with more opportunities for them. That is my reason for this visit. I come here to make agreements with you. The campo should not be isolated. Do not stop the development. I want to open the road that you began with Ricardo Villarreal, which is under construction. I want to open it as your mayor, because that will be the road of development.”

He then granted an interview to some local students. Other locals invited us to share a gordita with chicharrón before it was time to leave.

 

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