Colombia’s Francia Márquez follows Kamala Harris into the history books
What happened in Colombia on Sunday June 19 was seismic. Not only because Gustavo Petro, former guerrilla, former mayor of Bogota and current senator, became the first leftist president of the traditionally conservative country but also because of his running mate, Francia Márquez, the eco-feminist who was elected first black vice-president of Colombia.
Márquez’s story is an inspiration to all Colombians who have been marginalized and ignored.
“It will be a government for those who have calluses on their hands”, Márquez said after Sunday’s victory. “We are here to promote social justice and help women eradicate patriarchy.
In a country that has been ravaged by decades of civil war and extreme inequality, Márquez’s story is an inspiration to all Colombians who have been marginalized and ignored. As reported by NBC News, “Marquez grew up in a remote village and had a daughter when she was 16. To support herself, she cleaned houses and worked in a restaurant while studying law.” Marquez became a fierce defender of the Afro-Colombian community, leading campaigns against hydroelectric and mining interests. In a country known for its misogynistic, anti-black and anti-indigenous culture, Márquez has faced a barrage of death threats. Yet she persevered and is now the country’s next vice president after running with Petro under a historic pact coalition which contains mostly leftist voices from the far left and centre-left.
Despite Colombian conservative sectors pushing the narrative that Petro and Márquez will take Colombia so far to the left that it will become the next Venezuela or Cuba, and conservative lawmakers promising not to cooperate with the new administration, there is a new hope in Colombia following years of violence, division policy and the catastrophic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not unlike the hope felt in the United States less than two years ago when Kamala Harris became the country’s first female and first black and Asian vice president after an election that made Donald Trump a one-term president and gave the country a sense that they could heal and work together.
Two black women who have made history in countries where black women have rarely been such prominent leaders should be congratulated and celebrated, although if the last two years in the United States are any indication of the challenges that Márquez could face , there is a chance that we will end up celebrating token elections followed by small transformative changes. In this country, many factors contribute to this lack of change, including the effectiveness of conservatives claiming that a far-left agenda is taking over and the Biden administration itself, which has still not been able to find its place in his messages to the American people.
Moreover, as MSNBC’s Joy Reid recently said, “Most media is still white and male. And their take on Kamala Harris becomes the take. It becomes conventional wisdom. It rings very true.
As vice president, Harris had mixed results, in part because she gets put in a lot of dead end situations. One of her lowest points – which still resonates with Latino voters who supported her – occurred last year in Guatemala when she tried to fight migration in the region, she said “don’t come” to migrants. The message sounded like a resigned acquiescence to Republican border hawks when she should have boldly confronted her critics and represented marginalized voices.
Such lack of boldness has haunted the Biden-Harris administration, and in the end, it could spell trouble for a Perto-Márquez administration as well. It’s not wrong to question the incoming administration’s ability to form coalitions when half the country is unlikely to cooperate.
Still, that shouldn’t cause us to downplay their wins or their potential for bigger wins. The Harris Moment stood with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson after a tumultuous Supreme Court confirmation hearing offered a tangible glimpse of what this country can be in the future, a country where black women hold seats of real power. The same can be said for Colombia and Márquez.
Black women have been excluded from power, even though they have been among the most active believers in the political process.
Change begins by being part of the political system. Black women have been excluded from power, even though they have been among the most active believers in the political process and what it stands for. Harris is still in the political arena and will help transform Democratic politics even if there doesn’t seem to be any real progress now. Nonetheless, Harris still tries, focusing on the key issues, like the right to voteeven as his political opponents show no desire to cooperate.
Along the same lines, Márquez can use her past as an activist to push through what she thinks is best for Colombia. She will clearly face the backlash, as she has in the past, but she is now in power. The desire to dismantle the status quo has to start somewhere, and for marginalized communities who have never seen the promise of equality come true, it will be people like Márquez and Harris who offer hope that such goals are achievable. , even if they require more time and more struggle.