In a radical departure from the past, Colombia’s last elections resulted in Francia Márquez becoming the first black vice-president. As an Afro-Columbian, she and Gustavo Petro ran a campaign that put the needs of the poor and the environment ahead of those of the wealthy. Their manifesto promised a departure from the reliance on fossil fuels into a more sustainable resource. This election comes at an essential time. Just a few weeks before this, a ruling in a court of the Santander province gave the go-ahead to two pilot fracking projects. Columbia had previously banned hydraulic fracturing, as well as all methods of non-conventional energy deposits. Overturning this ban would lead to a greater reliance on fossil fuels. Fracking can lead to polluted air and water by releasing tonnes of methane, an even deadlier greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The country’s political scene has been dominated by the affluent and well-connected. Gustav and Márquez hope to be a breath of fresh air. Márquez has been an agent of change in the past. She began protesting at the age of 13 and has taken place in several protests since then. As an afro-Columbian woman, she has faced intense discrimination. Even in the face of death threats, Márquez has stood firm for what she believes in and has not shied away from her cultural history. She frequently uses Afro-Columbian art forms in her politics.
Her first foray into eco-activism was in 1994 as a teen. She joined a protest against several companies like the Unión Fenosa, for example, that wanted to redirect the Ovejas river toward the Salvajina hydropower plant. The community fought for the river for three years, an essential part of their life. In 1997 they finally succeeded in stopping the project. In 2014, she led a fight against illicit gold mining in her hometown of La Toma. Francia spearheaded a march of 80 women from the countryside to Bogotá, putting pressure on the government to take action. A task force set up by the government in 2015 helped end illegal mining. For her efforts, she was awarded the Goldman environmental prize.