Grass To Grace: How Colombia’s First Black VP Rose From Maid To Governance

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There was jubilation in Colombia after the country elected Gustavo Petro as its first leftist president ever on Sunday.

The political revolution did not stop at that as they also elected the country’s first black vice president, Francia Marquez.

Marquez, a single mother, and a fiery environmentalist, worked as a maid before challenging international miners.

It was gathered that there was virtually nothing in Marquez’s past to have portrayed her chances of embarking on a political career or becoming a vice president.

Born in 1981 in a small village in the southwestern Cauca region of Colombia, she grew up with her mother. Pregnant at 16 with her first child, she was first forced to work in a gold mine a few kilometres from home to support her family. She was later hired as a maid, according to France 24.

In 2018, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work to stop illegal gold mining in her community of La Toma and for her community organizing. Márquez led a protest march of 80 women who trekked 560 kilometres (350 miles) to the capital city of Bogotá, and demanded the removal of all illegal miners from their community. In 2019, the BBC listed Francia Márquez on their 100 Women list for that year.

Her victory marks a turning point in Colombia, a country that had been reportedly marred with social inequalities and historically governed by conservative elites.

On the campaign trail, she was said to have been exuberant and unabashedly dazzling. Embracing her identity, Marquez would wear her brightly-coloured Afro-Colombian garments teamed with big jewellery.

She challenged the status quo, and proposed a brighter future with politics, saying “It’s time to move from resistance to power.”

“The great challenge that all of us Colombians have is reconciliation,” the 40-year-old said upon her victory, raising her fist, and smiling.

“The time has come to build peace, a peace that implies social justice,” Marquez had said.

“I am someone who raises my voice to stop the destruction of rivers, forests, and moors. I am someone who dreams that one day human beings will change the economic model of death, to make way for building a model that guarantees life,” she had said on her website.

With all votes counted, Petro, a 62-year-old former Mayor of Bogota, had won the presidential seat with 50.4 per cent to his rival, Rodolfo Hernandez’s 47.3 percent.

With Marquez as his running mate, Petro had beckoned not just a political break, but also a social movement, in a country said to have historically denied the existence of racism, of which Marquez had been a face of resistance.

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Marquez’ journey, from a young, black single mother to the country’s vice presidency is extraordinary, what some described as a story of grit against the odds, ‘grass to grace.’

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