Teresa Martínez de Varela, known by her pseudonym Lisa de Andráfueda was an Afro-Colombian writer, poet, and academic. She was one of the first Afro-Colombian women to publish her literary works.
The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano
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Despite her historical relevance, Teresa was only recognized for several years as the mother of the musician and composer Jairo Varela who founded the salsa orchestra named "Grupo Niche." However, Úrsula Mena Lozano published her biography in 2009, which gave visibility to the literary works of Teresa Martínez. Her impressive talent was revealed when the Colombian Ministry of Culture published an anthology that included some of her writings. Her relevance is also explained by the fact that she is one of the main writers to explore the African identity within Colombia, besides being an important academic during the early 1900s.
Martínez de Varela was born in the province of Chocó, located in the northern half of Colombia's pacific coast. Her grandfather was a Pioneer in navigation across The Atrato River. Her father was a cabinetmaker known for his flawless work in the towers of the Quibdó Cathedral in Chocó. Quibdó was not an easy place to flourish as a writer during the times of Teresa. In her biography, Martínez de Varela mentions how her work was constantly questioned and undervalued by many. Regarding her passion for education, Teresa also struggled in her hometown because she was not allowed to be a teacher due to her skin color.
Teresa was not only a poet, but she also wrote essays about folklore and politics. She was the author of novels, biographies, and even theater plays. During her free time, she also worked on her anagrams. In short, Teresa Martínez was passionate about writing. She worked on various literary pieces and was also a great reader. Her first novel, "Love and War," was written in 1947, and its setting was the early days of the second world war. Teresa narrated her vision of the conflict taking place far away from Colombia, in Europe. In 1983 she published one of her most acclaimed works, named "My Black Christ," narrating the story of the death penalty imposed on Manuel Saturio Valencia.
Martínez de Varela had a hard time regarding the discrimination that characterized her hometown. She mentioned, "I was too black to get into a catholic school and too white to be accepted at the neighborhood parties." Then she added, "It's curious, but at those times, they wouldn't let us play with the black kids. By then, no one talked about afro pride, and my mother was a victim of racism. She suffered because of her hair type and always tried to make it look straight".
Martínez passed away in 1998 in Cali, Colombia. In 2009, Úrsula Mena Lozano published her biography, "Honoring the truth," highlighting her historical relevance. In 1999 the Colombian Ministry of Justice published her memoir and included some of her works in an anthology of Afro-Colombian poets. Currently, Teresa is known for being one of the first Afro-Colombian writers and one of the most intellectual women of her time!