Francia Márquez, the first Afro-Colombian vice-president

On 19th June 2022, after a second round of voting, the Colombian people elected their first ever left-wing government, led by Gustavo Petro, with Francia Márquez as vice-president, the first ever Afro-Colombian and only the second woman to hold the position. In this post, we will focus on this trailblazing woman, who studied Law specifically to be prepared to defend the rights of her people, and on the context that led her and her country to this new chapter in their history.

Francia Elena Márquez Mina was born in 1981 in Yolombó, in the Cauca Department on the West coast of Colombia, one of the areas of the country where enslaved populations from Africa have lived since the 17th century. Traditionally in this region, Black slaves were forced to work in gold mining, sugarcane plantations and cattle ranches. To this day, the impact of exploitatative and extractivist practices on peoples, territories and resources in the region are still painfully relevant and have been part of Francia Márquez’s life experience since her earliest formative years, which would lead her to become a committed activist from the age of 17 years old. This life experience remains the basis of her politics, as she makes the move from activism to mainstream politics. Continue reading

Juan Latino, 16th-century Afro-Spaniard freed slave, poet and Latin professor

Juan Latino (ca. 1517-ca. 1594) was born most likely in Baena (southern Spain), descendent of Guinea born parents. He was the first Afro-European to write in Latin and thus, have a literary career. In fact, he was called “Latino” for his mastery of that language. We should not forget that slavery was common at the time in Europe (see 532:8.b.200.1).

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Slave with chains & woman in the Kingdom of Castille, Christoph Weiditz, 1530-40, Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg (via Wikimedia, click to see enlarged)

The fascinating story of Juan Latino is for Professor Aurelia Martín Casares (Universidad de Granada) an example of the triumph of wisdom (see C213.c.3056); he was able to break prejudices and social conventions in a somewhat rigid early modern society. In this story the noble family to whom he belonged, played a crucial role in helping make possible his exceptional achievements. Martín Casares compares Latino with the American abolitionist writer and orator Frederick Douglass (who escaped slavery in the 1830s), but makes the point that Latino lived three centuries earlier than Douglass. Continue reading

“Black models” in visual culture and modern arts

The Mémorial ACTe (Centre caribéen d’expressions et de mémoire de la Traite et de l’Esclavage) in Guadeloupe is hosting until December 2019 a jointly curated exhibition previously held at the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in New York, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today (October 2018 to February 2019, see C200.a.5469) and at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Le Modèle noir, de Géricault à Matisse (March to July 2019, see S950.b.201.5919). The Memorial to slavery, opened in 2015, which is also a cultural centre and museum, seems an appropriate venue for this exhibition, which focuses on “the representation of the black figure in the development of modern art”. Continue reading