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NADEL: Asking Ecuadorian students about American presidential race

When I first tell people that I’m from the United States, the order of conversation usually proceeds as follows: me clarifying that no, I’m not from New York City but instead upstate New York, that I do not know their relative and then what I think about Donald Trump.

At first, it felt like Donald Trump was all Ecuadorians wanted to ask me about. I wanted them to ask me what I thought about Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or literally anyone or anything else besides Trump.

So this week, I set out to ask Ecuadorian students at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito their thoughts on the American presidential candidates. I don’t think this is an all-encompassing representation of every single Ecuadorian student, but it’s what I encountered at USFQ.

It turns out that my efforts to talk about someone other than Trump were thwarted. Each interview somehow circled back to Donald Trump. Now I realize this was for good reason.

I prompted students to tell me their general observations about the current state of the American political race. Respondents said it has “lost its track,” is “very polemic,” and “it’s a joke,” to name a few.

Many students said they felt uninformed about the American political race. Nicole Erazo, 18, said that most of the coverage of American politicians in Ecuador is about the racist things candidates say, and not about their policies.

“I can’t say I really know each one of the candidates, but I know Trump, because he has this ideology that is so shocking,” Gabriela Andrade, 21, said.

When I asked students who they would vote for, if given the choice, their answers were synonymous with the slogan “Anyone But Trump.” Not one person said they would vote for him.

Supporters of Sanders, the Democrat senator from Vermont, said they felt he’s an honest man, and are impressed with the way he finances his campaign.

“Bernie Sanders is a leader that wants to talk, and wants to know people … I know that he’s a simple man who even marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was young, so I think he could be a good leader,” Diana Mollocana, 21, said.

Clinton supporters mostly said they liked her because she would be the first female president of the United States. Some said they felt like they didn’t have a choice, because they believed the two nominees would be Trump and Clinton.

Some felt Clinton’s past will help her win a nomination.

“Her role as Secretary of State has shown her notable interest in solving some of the American problems abroad,” José Zurita, 22, said.

Santiago Robayo, 22, said that when he hears the name Clinton, it symbolizes humanism in a circus of sorts.

“[She’s] the best of the worst,” he said.

When asked what they think would happen if Trump won the election, many students were in agreement. Words like “Ku Klux Klan” and “macabre” were thrown around when discussing the implications for Latinos living in the United States.

“If you want to just build a wall between two nations, you’re just going back to primitive eras,” Mollocana said. “I think Trump is an example of intolerance.”

Juan José Izquierdo, 22, said he thinks that if Trump wins, people in Latin America will have a worse image of the states.

“We are all a consequence of colonization,” he said. “Some of his supporters seem focused on ‘Making America Great Again,’ but I don’t think it hasn’t stopped being great.”

Other students said they dislike Trump because they felt it was their duty as Latinos.

“Because I’m a Latina, I must dislike Trump, but that’s just an opinion because I’m not really sure what his proposals and political views are,” Erazo said.

Andrade said if Trump wins, there will be negative implications for more than just Latinos. She said that Americans will realize Latinos are an important part of society because they do many jobs Americans don’t, and the economy will suffer if they are forced to leave.

But Andrade pointed out that it’s easy to become outraged and make these observations when it’s not your own country. She said she thinks that if there were a Donald Trump-esque candidate in Ecuador, they would be successful. She attributed this to the lack of jobs and money during the current economic crisis in Ecuador and the sentiment that the country should exist solely for the benefit of Ecuadorian citizens.

“But when you see the picture of the United States, and you’re the one who’s going to be kicked out, or a family or a friend, it’s very different,” she said. “It’s so paradoxical.”

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  1. Once again a masterpiece!!!! Keep the stories coming. Love you my Awesome Incredible and Talented niece. Love Aunt KK