It is a great time for 46-year old Vanda Guiomar Pignato
, a native of Brazil, who on June 1st, 2009 became the First Lady of El Salvador, Central America, a country of about 6.5 million people.
is the most politically savvy and educated woman ever to have such position in a country where according to the latest U.S. Department of State's country report, only a tiny percentage of women graduate from college.
In 1989, Vanda
graduated from Mogi das Cruzes as a lawyer interested in environmental law.
From 1988 to 1992, she worked with the Program for Cooperation and Academic Solidarity for World Service in Brazil.
During ECO-92, and along with other NGOs, she
organized a forum on Environmental Education.
Her political interests led her to join the Workers' Party in São Paulo.
In 1992, while Funes worked as a journalist and had yet to cross paths with Pignato, the U.S.-backed government of El Salvador and the FMLN signed a Peace Agreement that ended a war that neither side could win outright.
During the heated political campaign that led to the election of her husband, the rightist Salvadoran newspaper "El Diario de Hoy" published an article on February 23, 2009 that tied Pignato with having befriended the People's Revolutionary Party ("Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo") and former guerilla commander Joaquin Villalobos of the FMLN.
With the election of Lula and the ascendancy of Brazil's Workers' Party
to power in 2003, the fortunes of Pignato
also turned upward.
She became the director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at the Embassy of Brazil in El Salvador.
That same year, the City of São Paulo awarded Pignato
the Anchieta Medal and an Award of Gratitude for her
human rights work and for promoting Brazilian culture in Central America, and the Salvadoran Congress
the award of "Distinguished Friend of El Salvador.
As the first Brazilian First Lady of El Salvador, Pignato
has no role models to follow and her
public persona will continue to be scrutinized.
In a small country where Brazilian singers, soccer stars, and artists have long been revered, her
future public role in the Funes administration is uncharted.
might get involved in providing greater support for unique Salvadoran institutions such as the Museum of the Word
and the Image (MUPI) in San Salvador, which have staged exhibitions on subjects whitewashed or belittled by official right-wing organizations ranging from indigenous traditions to obscure historical characters as exemplified by Prudencia Ayala (1885-1936), a native of El Salvador who in 1930 became the first woman in Latin America to ever run for president of a country even though she
did not have the right to vote.
As a mother of a toddler, Pignato
might consider doing outreach to the thousands of Salvadoran single mothers who live in extreme poverty.
At the very least, and as one of the unsung heroes and pivotal advisors in her husband's rise to power, Pignato should tell her own story about her new country where, in the words of famous Salvadoran novelist Manlio Argueta, the waters of the south sea silently wash its shores.