Colombia election: Francia Marquez can be the first black vice president

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Bogota, Colombia – As a prominent activist, Francia Marquez has received death threats, racist tweets – and even an assassination attempt. He was then nominated for vice president in this month’s election. In a few weeks, the President said The Colombian Senate has accused him of having links to one of the country’s most violent guerrilla groups.

But Marquez Was accustomed to defending himself. Surrounded by reporters, he responded to the attack A strong, confident voice.

“What makes the president really uncomfortable,” she said, “is that today, a woman who could be his housewife, could work as a maid, could now be his vice president.”

It is a statement that Marquez has proudly repeated throughout his historic campaign, similarly reminding supporters and critics alike of who she is: an Afro-Colombian woman. The single mother of two who gave birth Her first child when she was 16 and cleaned the house to pay the bills. An award-winning environmental activist who led a 10-day march to protect her community from illegal mining.

A lawyer who could now be Colombia’s first black vice president.

The 40-year-old, who has never held a political office, shocked Colombians in March When he won the country’s presidential primary with the third highest number of votes. Running alongside left-wing senator Gustavo Petro, he is now one of the most visible candidates in the election, packing plazas and electrifying crowds. If they win, she will be one of only two black women vice presidents in Latin America.

He has grown up to be white. Now he identifies as black. Brazil is struggling with ethnic redefining.

Of the six presidential tickets in the May 29 election, four have an Afro-Colombian vice-presidential candidate – a significant change in a country historically ruled by a small group of men from an elite family.

But it is Marquez whose message is broken. His outspokenness and his life story are forcing Colombia to face its racist, racist and sexist past and present.

“I’m part of a community that has historically been marginalized and marginalized, a community that has been enslaved,” he told the Washington Post. “It’s more than just the color of our skin. It’s about the elite who believe they are superior, the rest are inferior and it doesn’t matter. “

Marquez is a type of leader who has rarely reached the highest levels of power in the hemisphere, and not just because he is a black feminist activist from a working-class background. ShePeople are being forced to question their privileges just like some other black politicians.

“He is debating the legitimacy of a government run by elites,” said Mara Viveros Vigolla, a professor of gender studies and anthropology at Columbia National University. “He is telling them, ‘You are speaking on behalf of a community you do not know.’ “

Colombia has the largest population of descendants of Africans in Latin America. Census data indicate that Afro-Colombians make up more than 6.2 percent of the population, but analysts say the actual number could be much higher.

Marquez’s discussion of race is interrupted by a country that has for generations identified its peoples as divided into a single mixed race called the Mestizos. In its 1991 constitution, Colombia formally recognized itself as multicultural, distinguishing between indigenous and black ethnic groups with certain territorial and cultural rights.

But Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities are facing unequal levels of poverty, violence and displacement. According to official figures, about 31 percent of the Afro-Colombian population lives in poverty, 11 points more than the national population.

“We are not happily diverse, we are disproportionately different,” said Johanna Herrera, director of the Observatory of Ethnic Territory at the University of Xavier.

Ninety percent of the Pacific coast’s population is Afro-Colombian, most of them from Spanish slaves who worked in the gold mines in the region before the legal abolition of slavery in 1851. There is a belief among Colombians that black people live only in remote forests in the Pacific, Herrera said. This false narrative – with a low count by census – allows local officials in some parts of the country to deny that Afro-Colombians live in their jurisdiction, limiting the titles of property and land given to these communities.

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In the United States, apartheid, racism and racism are rarely discussed in a national forum.

“The racism that exists in the United States is one of institutional clarity,” said Colombian anthropologist Eduardo Restrepo.

Marquez did not graduate from a prestigious university, nor did he rise through traditional political employment. He was educated as an agricultural technician and earned a law degree in 2020 from a university in Cali near his home.

This sets him apart from other black candidates running for vice president. Luis Gilberto Murillo, running partner of moderate candidate Sergio Fazardo, a former environment minister and governor who was educated abroad. Murillo “speaks the language of the aristocracy,” Viveros said.

Asked if Colombia was racist, Murillo replied: “I’m not saying that; The Constitutional Court has said many times. If I say so, people will call me dissatisfied.

Murillo always wears a suit and tie, he told The Post. “If you wear clothes, as a man of Afro-descent, you can be sure that you will be stopped.”

Marquez, meanwhile, wears colorful Afro-Colombian prints and large jewelry. When he stands next to Petro, he often raises his fist – smiling.

“Man’s problem with Francia is that she’s a black woman who doesn’t behave well, who knows she’s black, and knows what that means in historical terms,” ​​Restrepo said. “And he doesn’t shut up.”

It was not always so. Growing up in a predominantly Afro-Colombian community, Marquez said he did not want to be black. He linked his roots to images of Africa he saw on television, “Show us malnourished children with flies in their mouths.”

As a teenager, she thought that dating a white man would help her move forward in society. But when she became pregnant at age 16, she abandoned him.

As he heard the story from his grandmother he began to connect with his black identity, who had never learned to read and whose great-grandfather had become a slave. “He told me about the struggle of our people to protect our land,” Marquez said.

Marquez has spoken out against illegal gold mining. Death threats forced him to flee his hometown. That same year, she led dozens of women on a 217-mile walk in Bogot যাতে to protest a mine that her community depended on over a river. The Colombian government eventually responded by sending troops to expel illegal miners.

In 2018, Marquez Goldman has won the Environmental Award, given to one worker from each of the six regions around the world. A year later, he survived an assassination attempt.

“It forces people to wake up,” said Axel Rojas, a professor of anthropology at Koka University. “Despite all the real risks.”

On the way to the campaign, He has been the target of racist attacks on social media. A Colombian singer compared her to “King Kong.” A member of his own group shared a photo showing Marquez as a gorilla and claimed he was trying to protect her.

The former guerrilla is fighting for the presidency of Colombia, imagining a new Latin American left.

Some opponents say he is not being singled out. Rodrigo Lara Sanchez, a companion of conservative Federico Guterres, the son of a justice minister who was killed in 1984 by Pablo Escobar’s assailants.

When asked about the racist attacks against Marquez, Lara argued that they were no different from the threats and comments she faced as a politician.

“To me, there is no difference between what I have endured and what I have lived and what I have done,” Lara said.

Marquez says apartheid in Colombia has long been “covered up.”

“It’s harder to show racism here,” he said. “But now, it’s not that difficult. And if there’s one thing that makes me happy, it’s that. People don’t need to tell us that we’re too tired to talk about racism. They realize it exists, doesn’t it?

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