Francia Elena Marquez Becomes first Afro-Colombian Vice President of Colombia,
Francia Elena Marquez Mina has made history by becoming the first Black Colombian woman to be elected Vice President of the nation. She is the second woman to hold the position of Vice president, and the first Black Colombian person to achieve such a high seat in government.
Francia Elena Marquez Mina was born in Yolombo, a village situated in the Suarez municipality in the Cauca department in Colombia. Her parents were miners.
Although her mom had a wide range of skills such as being a farmer and a qualified midwife, it was always a challenge to secure a stable income in a war-torn country.
The Cauca region that she grew up in had been poverty-stricken for as long as she could remember. The Colombia Pacific is an area of the nation that has been war-stricken for decades.
The area is known by many Colombians to have been “forgotten” by the government due to its largely black and indigenous population.
At the young age of 13, she became the first activist to speak boldly about the infrastructure of a dam that was in her community. Though the towns struggled with poverty, they were situated in an area that was rich in minerals and rivers.
There were multiple concerns in regards to companies drying out the river and many people felt unsafe with its infrastructure. She assembled a group of 80 women to strike against illegal mining in the La Toma community.
They started a 10-day (350mile) route march from La Toma to Bogota, the nation’s capital, with the intention of persuading the Colombian government to put a stop to the illegal mining in her hometown.
The government adhered without hesitation and ordered all illegal miners in her hometown of La Toma to leave and stop operations immediately. Marquez’s hard work and dedication were a success, leading to her being awarded the distinguished Goldman environmental award.
Still on Francia Elena Marquez…
She fell pregnant at the age of 16 and became a single mom. To provide for her child, she worked several entry-level jobs to make ends meet from being a miner to being a live-in housekeeper. While working to sustain herself and her child, she found the motivation to study law and become an environmental activist.
Her dedication to changing her surroundings helped her in attracting followers, many of whom are Afro-Colombians. Beatriz Cocino, who marched along with Marquez, said, “What sums her up best is her humility!”
Although she was a public figure of hope and triumph to many Afro-Colombians, there were those that thought she was inexperienced and questioned her capabilities.
Sergio Guzmán, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, said that people wonder if she “would be able to be commander in chief [and] if she would [be able to] manage economic policy or foreign policy, in a way that would provide continuity to the country.”
Marquez immediately fell victim to death threats during her campaign. At one point, she had laser beams pointed at her in her house from a nearby building. She immediately notified her security guards and it appeared to be an assassination attempt.
Although she still battles racism, her inauguration as vice president is due to take place on August 7th, 2022. She is still set on breaking all the barriers in Columbia as she is a firm believer in equality.
In a news conference, Marquez said, “This is an important moment for the ‘nobodies’ of this country who have never had a voice. This is a moment of racial justice, gender justice, ecological justice – and a moment of social justice.”