For the first time in Colombia’s historical past, a Black lady is near the highest of the chief department.
Francia Márquez, an environmental activist from the mountainous division of Cauca in southwestern Colombia, has grow to be a nationwide phenomenon, mobilizing many years of voter frustration, and turning into the nation’s first Black vice president on Sunday, because the working mate to Gustavo Petro.
The Petro-Márquez ticket received Sunday’s runoff election, in accordance with preliminary outcomes. Mr. Petro, a former insurgent and longtime legislator, will grow to be the nation’s first leftist president.
The rise of Ms. Márquez is important not solely as a result of she is Black in a nation the place Afro-Colombians are commonly topic to racism and should deal with structural obstacles, however as a result of she comes from poverty in a nation the place financial class so usually defines a individual’s place in society. Most current former presidents have been educated overseas and are linked to the nation’s highly effective households and kingmakers.
Despite financial beneficial properties in current many years, Colombia stays starkly unequal, a development that has worsened throughout the pandemic, with Black, Indigenous and rural communities falling the farthest behind. Forty % of the nation lives in poverty.
Ms. Márquez, 40, selected to run for workplace, she mentioned, “because our governments have turned their backs on the people, and on justice and on peace.”
She grew up sleeping on a dust ground in a area battered by violence associated to the nation’s lengthy inner battle. She grew to become pregnant at 16, went to work within the native gold mines to assist her baby, and finally sought work as a live-in maid.
To a section of Colombians who’re clamoring for change and for extra numerous 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, mentioned 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 intention 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 class in a method hardly ever 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,” mentioned Santiago Arboleda, a professor of Afro-Andean historical past at Simón Bolívar Andean University. “Today, they’re on the front page.”