First Lady of the Revolution

I followed the recent special election for Senate in Alabama, far closer than anyone on the other side of the ocean probably should. Given the past tumultuous year under Trump and looking ahead to 2018 and what might possibly be different, especially with mid-term elections on the horizon, this election, as so many have written about, representing an important event in terms of scrying what lies ahead. Things look very good for Democrats in the Congress, as Trump ends his first year with historically low approval ratings.

Amidst all the coverage of the Alabama, this one article struck out at me, and not for any Alabama related reason really. It is about a 99 year-old Alabama woman, who lived a very interesting life, especially in terms of her at one point being the First Lady of Costa Rica and being referred to as "The First Lady of the Revolution."

This sorts of article are common media frames. You take an older person, with unique experiences or with some symbolic relevance, and then you follow them through some contemporary political context. They generally resonate with me, because of my own experiences interviewing older Chamorros, who lived interesting lives, and seeing the changes over time from their perspective. Reading this piece, I couldn't help but think of my own grandparents, Joaquin and Elizabeth Lujan, and what they went through, politically, during their time on earth. I wish the local media did more to draw out those stories, especially when you think about how the oldest generation was not born as US citizens and only became US citizens via an act of Congress. And furthermore how residents of Guam have only able to vote for their own Governor since 1970.


An Alabama Voter, 99 Years Old, Makes Her Way to the Polls and Hopes for a Democratic Win
Deborah Barfield Berry
USA Today
December 12, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Henrietta Boggs-MacGuire grabbed her black purse Tuesday and carefully made her way to the car that would take her down Magnolia Curve to the polling site here where she’s voted the last 28 or so years.
The 99-year-old — who was once the First Lady of Costa Rica — was determined to get to her polling place at Huntingdon College early to cast her ballot for what she called an important election.
“This could be maybe be a turning point, I hope, in the country’s rejection of what seems to me an administration that’s destructive on too many fronts," Boggs-MacGuire said as the car pulled into a parking spot.
Once inside, Boggs-MacGuire pulled out her ID card and bypassed the line of would-be voters. A sign offered front-line access for voters over 70.
Boggs-MacGuire, who calls herself a Yellow Dog Democrat, has always voted for Democrats. That didn’t change Tuesday.
She voted for Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race. Jones is in a tight race against Republican Roy Moore for the seat once held by Republican Jeff Sessions.
Boggs-MacGuire said it’s hard to predict whether Jones will win.
“We all have a tendency to hear what we want to hear," she said. “Since most of my friends, of course, are Democrats I hear maybe we have a chance. So that’s what I’m holding onto. Maybe we do, except that Roy Moore has never lost a race."
“Anyway," she added. “Keep the faith."

Most of her Democratic choices over the years have lost to Republicans like George H. Bush, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. She called the election of Democrat Barack Obama “transforming."
“But this one has the potential probably to be a turning point. Maybe that’s why we’re all so excited about it," she said.
Boggs-MacGuire, who prefers to simply be called Henrietta, said she’s never missed an election when she’s lived in the United States. “Never, never - heaven’s no," she said.
Boggs-MacGuire was glad to see the long line at the site. She attributes it to all the national attention the race has garnered.
"It means that people are trying to turn out and be good citizens and show off,'' she said.
Antony Leigh, senior vice president at Huntingdon College, welcomed the crowd and held the door open for Boggs-MacGuire.
“It’s a great day for us to welcome our whole neighborhood to our campus," he said.

Boggs-MacGuire, has seen much in her nearly 100 years. But she’s worried about the future of the South with race relations still a mess and education and health care programs under attack.
“We’re in a tragic period,'' she said.

She is not new to political unrest.
Her life is the subject of a documentary, “First Lady of the Revolution,” which premiered earlier this year in Montgomery.
The documentary focuses on her life, including her marriage to Jose Figueres Ferrer, who led a revolution in Costa Rica in 1948 to overthrow the government and led to reforms, including voting rights for women.
Boggs-MacGuire, then Henrietta Boggs, had gone to Costa Rica to visit with her aunt and uncle when she met and later married Ferrer. She served as the First Lady in the 1940's.
The two divorced in 1955. Boggs-MacGuire later lived in New York and Paris but eventually returned to Alabama moving to Montgomery where she married Dr. Hugh MacGuire.
Boggs-MacGuire is also the author of her 1992 memoir, “Married to a Legend: My life with Don Pepe.”
These days, Boggs-MacGuire can be found working part-time at River Region Living Magazine, a glossy life-style magazine she helped start about 30 years ago.

With voting done early Tuesday, MacGuire prepared for her afternoon schedule.
There was an interview for the magazine with a museum curator and her a board meeting for the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing Arts.
“What is more interesting than to be involved in a community instead of laying on the sofa?" she asked. “How awful to let life trap you like that."


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