Francia Márquez Is Colombia’s First Black Vice President

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The newly elected Vice-President of Colombia Francia Marquez. Image: Ovidio Gonzalez/Getty Images.

Francia Márquez, a Colombian environmental and social justice activist who once worked as a housekeeper, has been elected as Columbia’s first Black Vice President, the New York Times reports.

As the running mate to President-Elect Gustavo Petro, who will also make history as the country’s first leftist head of state, the duo won Sunday’s runoff election in their country by representing the change that so many Colombians have been seeking.

Márquez said she decided to run for office, because her government has “turned their backs on the people, and on justice and on peace.”

Márquez’s appointment is significant because Afro-Colombians face persistent racism and structural barriers in the South American country.

The election was assured that the country would have an Afro-Colombian woman Vice President as Petro’s opponent Rodolfo Hernández running mate was Dr. Marelen Castillo, an educator and religious conservative, of Black lineage as well.

Growing up in the poor, mountainous region of Cauca in southwestern Colombia where she grew up sleeping on a dirt floor, Márquez became pregnant at 16 and went to work in the local gold mines to support her child. Eventually, she worked as a live-in maid, which is a striking contrast to the former presidents of Colombia who were educated in foreign countries and connected to the country’s most powerful families.

Márquez will give leadership to a county that is rifled with economic inequality and where Black, Indigenous and rural communities have fallen even further behind because of the global pandemic. According to a report, forty percent of the country lives in poverty.

While the Petro-Márquez ticket won by a considerable margin, many are skeptical of the new incoming leadership. She’s been the subject to “racist tropes,” and has been criticized for her class and lack of political experince.

Sergio Guzmán, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a consulting firm, said 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.”

Santiago Arboleda, a professor of Afro-Andean history at Simón Bolívar Andean University argues that Márquez’s critique of the country’s social disparities was rarely heard as “many in our society deny them, or treat them as minor.”

“Today, they’re on the front page,” he said.

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