Francia Marquez smiling at the camera

With just over 50% of the vote, Colombia now moves forward with their first Afro-Colombian woman vice president and first leftist president. August 7th, 2022 will mark a new era in Colombian politics - one where Francia Márquez will assume office, becoming the first Black vice-president in the country’s history, with former leftist rebel Gustavo Perez as president.

Born in Suarez, a rural community in Colombia’s Cauca region, she supported herself as a maid after becoming a mother at 16. Márquez then dedicated herself to environmental activism, organizing a campaign against the illegal mining activity along the Ovejas River. Miners would use mercury in their efforts to find gold - something that has a deeply negative impact on the environment.

Márquez embarked on a dangerous quest to protect the river, sacred to the rural communities that rely on it. In 2014, she organized 80 women to walk 350 kilometers from Cauca to the capital city of Bogota to demonstrate in front of the Ministry of the Interior for 20 days in what was called the “Marcha de los Turbantes” (or “Turban March”). Despite facing death threats and severe harassment, Márquez’s persistence paid off and the Ministry vowed to end all illegal mining in the area. By the end of 2016, all illegal mining machinery had been physically removed or destroyed and in 2018, Márquez received the Goldman Prize, which is considered the “Green Nobel Prize.”

Márquez earned her law degree over the span of 10 years, having to pause her studies to earn tuition money by cleaning houses and working in restaurants. On the campaign trail, she vowed to dedicate her time in office to advocating for the rights of women, indigenous communities, and Afro-Colombians in the country. She also announced that Colombia will be creating a Ministry of Equality, where rural communities and underserved communities will not only have a voice but will also have access to resources that will work to support and grow these communities.

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