Julia Turkevica, writes for the site The New York Times, reported on Mars’ incredible journey:
Ms Marche’s prosperity is important not only because she is black in a country where Afro-Colombians are regularly subjected to racism and structural barriers, but also because she comes from poverty in a country where the economic class so often determines a person’s place in society. Most of the last former presidents have been educated abroad and are associated with the country’s strong families and the creators of the rulers.
Despite the economic gains in recent decades, Colombia remains clearly unequal and this trend has worsened during the pandemic, with black, indigenous and rural communities lagging behind the most. Forty percent of the country lives in poverty. […]
She grew up lying on a dirty floor in a region affected by the ongoing internal conflict. She became pregnant at the age of 16, went to work in a local gold mine to support her child, and eventually sought work as a domestic worker.
This is not the CV you would expect on the Colombian national stage or almost anywhere else in the region. To find out more about who she is, this video was created when she won the 2018 Goldman Environmental Award.
Their website provides information about her activity:
Francis Marquez, a terrible leader of the Afro-Colombian community, organized the women of La Toma and stopped the illegal mining of gold in their ancestral land. She put constant pressure on the Colombian government and led a 10-day, 350-mile march of 80 women to the country’s capital, removing all illegal miners and equipment from her community. […]
Marche and women once spent 22 days protesting in the streets in Bogotá. In December 2014, Marche and the community of La Toma reached an agreement with the Colombian government. Officials agreed to take action to eradicate illegal mining in La Toma. All illegal equipment and excavators in the region will be confiscated and destroyed. In 2015, the government set up a national task force on illegal mining, the first of its kind in Colombia. As a direct result of Marx’s work, all illegal mining activities in La Toma were stopped. By the end of 2016, Colombian security forces had physically removed or destroyed all illegal mining equipment operating in La Toma.
Throughout 2014-2016 Marx was repeatedly persecuted, disrespected and threatened during the 2006 campaign to combat illegal mining in La Toma. She was forced to move to Cali to ensure her safety. Marquess continues to force the government to investigate the effects of illegal mining in the northern Caucasus, especially the pollution of the Ove and other rivers. Independent reports indicate that the level of mercury in these critical water sources is up to 500 parts per billion, while Colombian standards allow up to 1 part per billion in drinking water. Pollution of water with mercury and cyanide continues to cause serious health problems for the people of La Toma and the wider region.
In 2019, she and other activists who worked with her survived an assassination attempt:
This outrage has been reported in many Spanish-language outlets.
Latino Rebels reported the story in English:
On Saturday, May 4, armed men opened fire on a group of environmental activists in Santander de Quilichao, Colombia. Franco-Marquez, an African-Colombian environmental activist, was one of the target groups. […]
In 2018, 155 human rights activists were killed in the country. Many of them work directly with Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
Marquess survived. However, others have not done so, such as the murder she reported on social media (trigger warning: violence) a month after the attack she survived.
Maria del Pilar Hurtado, an Afro-Colombian social leader from Cordoba, was threatened by black eagles and killed yesterday in front of her son, who cries and screams in pain and importance … Until the president @IvanDuque ? Stop barbarism.
(For information: Black Eagles are paramilitary units.)
Back to the present: The reaction of black Colombians to her election on social media has been joyful! I have to admit that I had a huge smile on my face watching this tweet from TikTok about one man’s reaction to the news.
Election data analysts are also weighing in, pointing to her voter turnout to win the election of newly elected left-wing President Gustavo Petro.
In the tweet map below, the area in orange is where most Afro-Colombians live.
This fact was not lost by Black Colombian observers.
(Translation: You owe it to Afro-Columbia @petrogustavo the people expect real action to improve the Black People. We expect better material conditions, security, youth employment and infrastructure.)
One of the fascinating aspects of her campaign was how she interacted with people in the Colombian diaspora, which is made up of nearly 5 million Colombians living abroad, about which Lisa Smith wrote in NACLA:
An Afro-Colombian environmental activist and lawyer, Marche is young in politics. Since his candidacy, Marx has become a gathering point for Colombian activists and young people dissatisfied with the status quo. She is just the second black woman to run for Colombia and take part in a platform that challenges traditional forces in a highly militarized, conservative country. Unlike other presidential candidates, Marx is from a small black town in southwestern Colombia and has no political machine behind it. So she did something that the other candidates did not do: she turned to the Colombian diaspora. […]
Castañedas said the belief that the work affected voters not only abroad but also in Colombia motivated the volunteers to expand their international reach so that Marquez became a world-renowned name and hopefully generated more interest and understanding at home. Country. And their efforts paid off.
In the presidential election on March 19, Marche received 785,000 votes, the third largest number of candidates from any party, including many career politicians. According to Castañeda, 28 percent of the votes for Marche were from the diaspora.
I also follow other answers, including this one from Nigeria and Trinidadian Professor of Applied Linguistics, Dr. Uju Anya, author of the book. Rationalized Identity in Second Language Learning: Dark Speaking in Brazil who had fun tweeting in response to NOW script:
She then published a number of additional tweets highlighting important points:
She closed her tweet with a warning to those who denied racism. Those of us who have studied and taught about race and racism in Latin America all too often hear these denials and dismissals.
I agree. Yes, racism and the supremacy of whites are a major problem in Colombia. This short documentary with English subtitles, produced by LAPORA, Latin American Anti-Racism in the Post-Race Age, a research project at the University of Cambridge in England, tells the story.
With the praise for the new vice president, it remains to be seen what he and his presidential partner will be able to do for the black and indigenous people of Colombia, who have been economically and politically oppressed and oppressed for so long. Many of us aspire to her!
Join me in the comments section to learn more as well as in the weekly Caribbean Twitter news feed.