Vice Presidential Candidate and Presidential Candidate, Francia Márquez and Gustavo Petro Photo: Pacto Histórico
Francia Márquez Mina, a Black woman activist from the predominantly Black and forgotten region of the Pacific coast, is Colombia’s First Black Vice Presidential Candidate.
“I did not get this far to occupy a political position. I am worried that this country won’t change, that peace wont get to the territories, that boys and girls, that children will keep on dying of hunger, that young people will keep on losing their vision, their eyes because they are demanding for their rights for education, for dignity in the streets, that is what I am worried about. That women keep on being silenced, that community leaders keep on being violated and assassinated, that does worry me. This is a national project, a project of transformation.” said Marquez.
With 99.6% of the votes counted on Sunday March 13th of the current year, Francia Marquez obtained 782,000 votes in the consultation to elect a candidate for the presidency of Colombia. In her case, she was second in the coalition of the Historical Pact (Pacto Historico), behind Gustavo Petro, who obtained more than four million votes.
Petro, the Presidential candidate, announced on March 23rd, from Medellin among the responsibilities that Márquez will be as the country's Vice President in case they win the next elections to be held on Sunday May 29th of the current year. Marquez will also play a very important role in carrying out the project of the Ministry of Equality, a key proposal of the Petro campaign.
Francia Marquez has sometimes been represented by the media as someone that does not have her own voice, or that has been opening up a trajectory for herself - two opposing perspectives - but this is not true. What is in fact true is that Francia has been doing this work since she was about 16 years old, when she started going to community meetings because she found out they were going to reroute the Ovejas River in the northern area of the department of Cauca in Colombia, which would kill off the area’s natural habitat. She worked with Black Communities Process, an organization that brings together over 140 grassroots organizations, community councils, and organizations committed to the transformation of the political, social, economic and territorial realities of Black, Afro-descendant, Raizal and Palenquera communities, through the defense and vindication of their individual, collective, and ancestral rights. Francia credits her activism with this organization in the recognition of her Blackness, since Colombia itself does not value Blackness. She argues that, were it up to Colombia’s education system, she would not have acknowledged or recognized her own power as a Black Woman.
What has made Francia a political powerhouse is that she brings the true perspective from her communities, because she is a community member herself. Born and raised in Yolombo, a mountainous community surrounded by two rivers, Francia learned the skills of ancestral mining, fishing and agriculture with her grandfather and her uncle. As a single mother and prominent activist who needed to protect her family, Francia felt it necessary to send her two sons out of Colombia. Now she is a Vice Presidential candidate for this country.
Francia believes that this is the time for all the Colombians that, for centuries, have been contributing to their communities with their bodies and their blood. As a victim of forced internal displacement, death threats and threats against her safety, Francia understands why many Colombians have felt the need to leave the country, and why Colombians also need an urgent change in politics that prioritizes the needs of people. And she not only feels she brings that priority, but she knows it, because she has lived it.
“I am looking to dignify the lives of the communities that have been mostly impacted by policies, communities that have been historically violated, and yes that means communities and territories that are racialized, the most excluded by this society. This is how I got to this historic pact. I come from these communities. It would not make sense for me to be in this historic pact if I cannot transform these communities” said Marquez.
Janvieve Williams Comrie is the founder and current Executive Director of AfroResistance, her previous professional experience include the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights Central America Regional Office and the US Human Rights Network in the United States. She resides between The Bronx, New York and Panama City, Panama.