Francia Márquez, the nobodies epic

From: León Valencia, for @infobae Translation: María Victoria Ramírez

Regardless of what happens this Sunday 19th of June 2022 in the presidential elections in Colombia, Francia Márquez is the great phenomenon of the political campaign that is ending. If she reaches the vice presidency of the country, she will give everything to talk about in the next four years, if she does not achieve it, with her barely 41 years, she will be at the top to pursue a political career that will take her very far.

But this is not the most important. The most valuable thing is the meaning of her political rise. From now on, a black man or woman, an indigenous person, a peasant, born in the most remote place, in the harshest conditions of poverty, will be able to dream of reaching the highest positions in the nation. The nobodies, as France called them, in that powerful variation of the language of identity. People who had succeeded in sports or in less visible professions, but very little or nothing at all in politics.

I met this woman at an event of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, in the days when she was competing in the consultation to choose the presidential candidate for the Pacto Histórico (Historic Pact). I was impressed by her certainty and self-confidence. In a spontaneous and fleeting conversation, she answered with few words to a question I asked her.

I had some disagreements with Gustavo Petro because of the way the lists were being configured for Congress and I asked her if she was thinking of looking for another political path. She told me she would not go anywhere because she had the mission of representing in that movement a multitude of people who had never had anyone to make their claims and aspirations heard. Then I set about finding out who went to her meetings and what it felt like at the rallies, assemblies, and demonstrations that she presided over. Feminists, environmentalists, blacks, indigenous people, gays, lesbians, trans, the different, the forgotten or segregated minorities come together, it is a representation of the ignored or harassed country. That's what they told me. But you don't feel the pain of exclusion, but the joy of claiming it. She represents joy and dignity, they told me.

Later I saw that dignity and that joy in her responses to the insults she received in the middle of the campaign. Like the one to President Duque: "What bothers the President of the Republic is that a woman who could be at home working as a service employee is going to be her vice president." Or what she said to Marbelle (a Colombian pop singer), after she compared Frarncia to King Kong in a singular act of racism and disparaged her qualities. Dear Marbelle -she told her- I don't understand how you hate me without knowing me, how you mistrust me if we've never had the opportunity to forge a friendly relationship. There is not only dignity and joy in Francia’s responses. There is intelligence and knowledge. In many different interviews, she has answered the questions appropriately, especially on the issues that have been her passion: the effects on the environment, gender equity, sexual diversity, the gaps between the centre and the regions, social marginality. She has also screwed up, like when she said - listing the products Colombia was importing due to the crisis in agriculture - that the eggs came from Germany. But that is a minor blunder compared to the muddy ones of the presidential candidates in this tragicomic campaign that we have suffered.

I don't think I'm exaggerating if I say that we are facing a true epic of a black woman, a single mother, from a distant town, whose most likely destiny was to be a servant in the home of rich people in that conservative and stately Cali. With her begins, perhaps, the great epic of the nobodies in a racist, exclusive and fiercely unequal Colombia that has not managed to jump into the 21st century.