Colombian Elections Catapult Black VP Candidate to Prominence

Joha Ardila, a university student, attended the closing rally of the Historical Pact party in the run-up to Sunday’s presidential vote. She came, he says, because the vice-presidential candidate – an Afro-Colombian woman – made her feel seen.

“As a black woman, that Francia Márquez has placed herself in a space of power means that all black women and all black girls can grow up thinking about reaching that space,” says Ms. Andila.

why are we writing this

Amid widespread poverty and despair, Sunday’s election in Colombia cast a beacon of hope for the dispossessed: a black woman running for vice presidency, promising to represent the nation’s “nobodies.”

In recent months, Ms. Márquez has gone from an environmental activist with little national recognition to a political candidate with a rock-star following. She was selected by the leftist politician Gustavo Petro, and the couple promises a progressive change. Although Petro is ahead in the polls, he is not likely to get the 50% of the votes needed to avoid a second round.

But it is the atypical profile of Ms. Márquez that is generating hope among the dispossessed in Colombia. Inequality and unemployment increased during the pandemic, sparking widespread protests. 40% of the population lives in poverty.

“I am a woman who has lived through the difficulties of this country, which is what most Colombians have lived through,” says Ms. Márquez.

“They feel pain but at the same time they feel hope.”

Bogota Colombia

As Clemencia Carabali watched television coverage of the funerals of five Afro-Colombian teenagers who had been tortured and murdered in 2020, she did not expect that anything could bring her out of her anger and pain.

Later, the also human rights activist Francia Márquez addressed the cameras to announce a candidacy for the presidency of Colombia.

“What a daring thing to do,” Carabali remembers thinking, after nearly falling out of her seat. “In a racist, sexist and classist country” like Colombia, black women from poor families like Ms. Márquez do not successfully cross barriers into national politics, she says.

why are we writing this

Amid widespread poverty and despair, Sunday’s election in Colombia cast a beacon of hope for the dispossessed: a black woman running for vice presidency, promising to represent the nation’s “nobodies.”

But that could be about to change.

Ms. Marquez has experienced a meteoric rise in recent months, from an environmental activist with little national recognition to a political candidate with a growing rock-star following. She is now the vice-presidential candidate on the ticket of Gustavo Petro’s left-wing Historical Pact party in this weekend’s presidential election, and her presence has inspired the nation’s “nobodies,” as he refers to citizens. Colombian poor ignored for a long time.

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