Carlos Alvarado won Costa Rica’s presidential election Sunday by a large margin against evangelical singer Fabricio Alvarado (no relation), who ran an anti-same-sex-marriage campaign. But equally important was the election of Alvarado’s running mate, Epsy Campbell Barr, as the first black female vice president in the Americas.
She will join the ranks of such other trailblazers as Victoria Garrón, the country’s first female vice president (1986-90); Thelma Curling, the first Afro-Costa Rican legislator (1982-86); and Laura Chinchilla, who became the first female president in the Central American nation (2010-14).
“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,” Campbell Barr told website CRHoy. “It would not be the first only in Costa Rica but in Latin America. And eventually, if the president leaves the country, [I would be] the first woman of African descent to assume the presidency of the entire American continent. It’s a big responsibility.”
According to local reports, Campbell Barr is an economist who helped found the ruling Citizens’ Action Party in 2000. She was named “Epsy” after her paternal grandmother, who hailed from Jamaica. Campbell Barr, 54, was born in Costa Rica’s capital city of San José on July 4, 1963. She’s the fourth child in a family of two sons and two daughters.
The vice president-elect has published books and articles on economic participation, democracy, sexism, racism and people of African descent, among other topics. She has also remained active in Afro-Caribbean affairs and in 1996 founded the Women’s Forum of Central American Integration, an initiative she coordinated until 2001. The mother of two daughters, Campbell Barr received a master’s in international cooperation and development and advanced management techniques and political decision.
The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States, led by former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana, lauded Costa Rica’s electoral process. “The Mission appreciated the early recognition of the electoral results by the candidate Fabricio Alvarado and highlighted the display of political maturity from both contenders once the preliminary results of the second presidential round were announced,” the organization said in a statement.
“[The Mission] congratulated President-elect Carlos Alvarado for his victory in the elections on April 1st, and the people of Costa Rica for their civic spirit demonstrated during the election day,” the statement added.