Francia Márquez is a community leader committed to the life and care of the vulnerable territories of Colombia. She aspires to become president to protect the places affected by the armed conflict. Márquez is against violence and firmly believes that differences can create unity.
The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou
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Her first steps as an activist and human rights defender were made visible through art. In an interview with the Colombian magazine Semana, Márquez said, “We are a wonderful country. I think that art and music fill us with feelings to live and feel”. She enjoys dancing folk music from the Colombian Pacific and other regions of the country.
Márquez highlights the urgent need to invest in culture and education instead of spending resources for war. Her social and environmental activism in Cauca makes it easy to recognize her, since she comes from a tradition of struggles and resistance that began with her grandparents.
Part of their cause is the recovery of lost dignity and humanity. From the age of 13, Márquez began to participate in projects that defend her territory, especially the river. She lives in an ancestral land because her family has been working to protect that territory, rich in mineral resources. Márquez's grandfather went to jail because they tried to protect the community's environment, and her grandmother had to work in the mine to earn money to get her husband out of there. The same happened with many women from families who joined the cause and ended up behind bars.
Márquez is a native of the municipality of Suárez, in the north of Cauca. She grew up on the banks of the “Ovejas” river and witnessed how her territory changed over the years as the place became an attraction for mining. It was this situation that awakened in the social leader the desire to defend her territory from the contamination generated by the excavation of mining deposits in the rivers.
In 2009, when she was in the second semester of Law, she instituted a protection action. She succeeded in having the constitutional court withdraw the mining titles of the AngloGold Ashanti company. In this way, she prevented members of her community from being evicted. In 2014 she had to leave the area due to threats from paramilitary groups, but Márquez did not stop.
That same year, she led a mobilization of black women in the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá, where she denounced the damage caused by illegal mining.
One of the most important recognitions for the constant battle of this social leader came in April 2018 when she received the Goldman Prize, known universally as the Environmental Nobel Prize, for defending her community in La Toma.
In different interviews, the activist affirms that each person has a purpose in the world. Hers, she assures, is to fight for the rights of Afro communities, women, for the territory and for life.
It is not the first time that a woman leader of a community is a presidential candidate in Latin America. In 2018, the indigenous María de Jesús Patricio joined the Mexican presidential elections as a traditional healer and human rights activist. Although she did not win, the social leader encouraged women to be leaders and future generations to raise their voices and believe in their causes.
Small community women leaders are often threatened by their activism. Although this is also the case for Márquez, she still wants to make a significant change in Colombia. Not just her community, but an entire country admires her for being brave and a perfect role model for empowered women.