The rise of Ms. Márquez is significant not only because she is Black in a nation where Afro-Colombians are regularly subject to racism and must contend with structural barriers, but because she comes from poverty in a country where economic class so often defines a person’s place in society. Most recent former presidents were educated abroad and are connected to the country’s powerful families and kingmakers.
Despite economic gains in recent decades, Colombia remains starkly unequal, a trend that has worsened during the pandemic, with Black, Indigenous and rural communities falling the farthest behind. Forty percent of the country lives in poverty.
Ms. Márquez, 40, chose to run for office, she said, “because our governments have turned their backs on the people, and on justice and on peace.”
She grew up sleeping on a dirt floor in a region battered by violence related to the country’s long internal conflict. She became pregnant at 16, went to work in the local gold mines to support her child, and eventually sought work as a live-in maid.
To a segment of Colombians who are clamoring for change and for more diverse representation, Ms. Márquez is their champion. The question is whether the rest of the country is ready for her.
Francia Márquez, 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize, Colombia
A formidable leader of the Afro-Colombian community, Francia Márquez organized the women of La Toma and stopped illegal gold mining on their ancestral land. She exerted steady pressure on the Colombian government and spearheaded a 10-day, 350-mile march of 80 women to the nation’s capital, resulting in the removal of all illegal miners and equipment from her community.
Francia Márquez acceptance speech, 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize
A formidable leader of the Afro-Colombian community, Francia Márquez organized the women of La Toma and stopped illegal gold mining on their ancestral land
“I Am Because We Are”: A conversation between Francia a Márquez Mina and Angela Davis
Streamed live on Sep 7, 2021 In March of 2010, activist, author and Distinguished Professor Angela Davis met with Afro-Colombian activist, human rights lawyer and former president of the National Council for Peace in Colombia, Francia Márquez Mina. Later that year, Davis went on a solidarity trip to Márquez Mina’s hometown of La Toma, an important community in the movement against dispossession and extractivism. Later, in 2014, Angela Davis sent a video expressing her support for Márquez Mina when she led a 10-day, 350 kilometer, march of 80 women to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. This mobilization demanded the suspension of all illegal and unconstitutional mining, as well as the removal of all the mining equipment from La Toma. Now, as Francia and the Soy Porque Somos “I am Because We Are” embark on the campaign to be elected President of Colombia, they meet again to discuss radical politics in Colombia and the U.S. today. They will discuss black radical politics, left coalitions, black women’s movements, the carceral state, paths to abolition, and issues related to environmental justice. This conversation will be moderated by Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper at the University of California, Irvine and International Coordinator of the Community Movement Builders' Pan African Solidarity Network.