Francia Márquez: From Social Struggle to the Vice-Presidency of Colombia

Feminist, antiracist, revolutionary and decolonial, a single mother, singer and poet, Francia Márquez represents the daily struggles of racialized women in Colombia. In this profile, we talk about her incredible political and personal career and elucidate how her historic achievement can change Colombia and the arts in Latin America.

Márquez delved deeply into the social processes and little by little started to write about her struggle in the pages of Colombia’s recent history. For some, she was merely an impoverished Black woman, raised by her mother along with her eleven siblings, but for others she represented hope, since she was the voice who was able to organize dozens of women to go out and claim their rights.

Now Vice President, elected by Colombian men and women, a lawyer, and specialized in Creative Writing, Márquez has dedicated her life to collective struggle. Feminist, antiracist, revolutionary and decolonial, a single mother, singer and poet, she represents the daily struggles of racialized women and a group of people she calls “the nobodies” who are nothing more than “the country’s poor,” a decisive factor for the victory of the Historic Pact, which became the first left-wing party to come to power in the country, with more than eleven million votes, maintaining the support of feminist, youth, social, countercultural and dissident movements, a feat that they would not have been able to achieve without the presence of Márquez among their ranks.

It should be noted that the presence of Francia Márquez in Colombian power will occupy two fronts: on the one hand, she will be the Vice President of the Republic and in that role, she will be able to fulfill the “missions or special assignments” that President Gustavo Petro assigns her. The President may also appoint her to “any position of the executive branch,” as stated in article 202 of the political constitution of Colombia. On the other hand, she will be directing the Ministry of Equality, a portfolio that, according to statements made by the president-elect, will be focused on three fundamental aspects: 1. Achieving equal pay for men and women. 2. Recognizing work at home as valid for receiving pension. 3. Vital income: half of minimum wage to the mother head of household. There is also hope that, with Márquez’s presence in public office, conversations around the creative, artistic and cultural will be strengthened and that dialogue will stem “from the roots” that can cross geographical borders and connect with different actors of the continent, bringing Colombian artists and cultivators closer to the African diaspora.

In addition, the fact that Márquez is a feminist environmentalist means that her influence can bring radical change to art that is produced in Latin America, given that land rights and women’s rights are themes with which artists often work throughout the American continent. For example, David Racero, recently elected by the Historic Pact as president of the House of Representatives, introduced bills in July that develop menstrual rights and regulate the military position of transgender people.

It seems that with regard to representation Márquez is the continuation of singer-songwriter and Grammy award winner Susana Baca, who in 2011 became Minister of Culture in Ollanta Humala’s government in Peru, and of winner of three Grammys, singer and former Minister of Brazil, Gilberto Gil. Although Francia does not have these kinds of awards to her name, she has received recognition as Defender of the Year, a National Award for the defense of human rights in Colombia in 2015, and on April 23, 2018, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, known as the “Environmental Nobel”, for her defense of the territory and its traditional and cultural practices against illegal mining. And that same year the BBC News network published The BBC’s 100 women of 2019, a list in which the 100 most influential and inspiring women from around the world were named for the following year, and Francia Márquez was one of them. Additionally, in 2019 she won the Joan Alsina Human Rights Award, for her steadfast commitment to the defense of the environment and community rights.

“After 214 years we have achieved a government of the people, a popular government. The government of the people, of calloused hands, the government of ordinary people, the government of the nobodies of Colombia” is one of the excerpts from her first speech as Vice President, on June 19, 2022. And she also made it clear that together with the President she will work to “reconciliate the nation” and was emphatic about mentioning that this will be the government “of peace and unity” based on the rights of mother earth, the pacha mama or “the big house”.

Willher Pino Córdoba is a 30-year-old gender diverse, Black man who is sensitive to the arts from Quibdó, Chocó, Colombia. A leader and activist for the rights of LGBTIQP+ communities, a member of the MAREIA Foundation, where he was trained in antiracist and Afrocentric decolonial thought and practice and works as facilitator, workshop coordinator of gender spaces and new masculinities and co-manager of the Wontanara Afro-cultural House.

Translation: Sara Hanaburgh