For the primary time in Colombia’s historical past, a Black lady is near the highest of the manager department.
Francia Márquez, an environmental activist from the mountainous division of Cauca in southwestern Colombia, has develop into a nationwide phenomenon, mobilizing a long time of voter frustration, and changing into the nation’s first Black vp on Sunday, because the working mate to Gustavo Petro.
The Petro-Márquez ticket gained Sunday’s runoff election, in line with preliminary outcomes. Mr. Petro, a former insurgent and longtime legislator, will develop into the nation’s first leftist president.
The rise of Ms. Márquez is critical not solely as a result of she is Black in a nation the place Afro-Colombians are recurrently topic to racism and should deal with structural limitations, however as a result of she comes from poverty in a rustic the place financial class so usually defines an individual’s place in society. Most current former presidents had been educated overseas and are related to the nation’s highly effective households and kingmakers.
Despite financial features in current a long time, Colombia stays starkly unequal, a development that has worsened throughout the pandemic, with Black, Indigenous and rural communities falling the farthest behind. Forty p.c of the nation lives in poverty.
Ms. Márquez, 40, selected to run for workplace, she stated, “because our governments have turned their backs on the people, and on justice and on peace.”
She grew up sleeping on a mud flooring in a area battered by violence associated to the nation’s lengthy inner battle. She turned pregnant at 16, went to work within the native gold mines to help her youngster, and ultimately sought work as a live-in maid.
To a section of Colombians who’re clamoring for change and for extra various illustration, Ms. Márquez is their champion. The query is whether or not the remainder of the nation is prepared for her.
Some critics have known as her divisive, saying she is a part of a leftist coalition that seeks to tear aside, as a substitute of construct upon, previous norms.
She has additionally by no means held political workplace, and Sergio Guzmán, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a consulting agency, stated that “there are a lot of questions as to whether Francia would be able to be commander in chief, if she would manage economic policy, or foreign policy, in a way that would provide continuity to the country.”
Her extra excessive opponents have taken direct purpose at her with racist tropes, and criticize her class and political legitimacy.
But on the marketing campaign path, Ms. Márquez’s persistent, frank and biting evaluation of the social disparities in Colombia cracked open a dialogue about race and sophistication in a way not often heard within the nation’s most public and highly effective political circles.
Those themes, “many in our society deny them, or treat them as minor,” stated Santiago Arboleda, a professor of Afro-Andean historical past at Simón Bolívar Andean University. “Today, they’re on the front page.”