Francia Márquez, a Colombian human-rights and environmental activist and lawyer, has been elected as the vice president of Colombia.
The Afro Colombian population of Columbia has been historically marginalized and are overrepresented in the numbers of forcibly displaced people and victims of violence.
Márquez’s victory matters not only because she is Black but also because she has risen from poverty to a top position in a deeply unequal country where people succeed in politics mostly through connections with the high and mighty or the economic class. Márquez’s story is different.
Francia Márquez was born in 1981 in a small village in the southwestern Cauca region of Colombia, she grew up alone with her mother. Pregnant at 16 with her first child, she was first forced to work in a gold mine a few kilometres from home to support her family and then hired as a maid.
Her environmental activism started early, in 1996, when she was just 15. Marquez learned that a multinational company wanted to launch a project to extend a dam on the region’s main river, the Ovejas, which would have a major impact on her community.
Márquez is also a lawyer and longtime activist and winner of the Goldman Prize, a prestigious recognition in environmentalism.