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Afro-Colombian Women Who Shaped the Nation’s History


Afro-Colombian women
These Afro-Colombian women, each a trailblazer in her own right, have significantly shaped Colombia’s narrative. Credit: Colombia One/Collage

In the rich tapestry of Colombian history, eight Afro-Colombian women stand out for their profound contributions across various fields. Beyond their individual achievements, these women have played pivotal roles in preserving and promoting Colombian culture, reflecting the nation’s vibrant heritage. From the arts to politics, sports to academia, their stories resonate as integral parts of Colombia’s narrative.

Delia Zapata Olivella

Pioneering Folklorist and Artist Delia Zapata Olivella, born in Lorica, Cordoba, in 1926, was a multifaceted artist, researcher, and promoter of Colombian folklore. Her legacy includes founding the ‘Ballet Folklorico Delia Zapata Olivella’ and paving the way for future generations of dancers to showcase Colombian culture globally. Despite her untimely death at 75, Zapata Olivella’s contributions remain integral to Colombia’s folkloric heritage.

Delia Zapata Olivella. Credit: Manuel Zapata Olivella foundation

Leonor Gonzalez Mina

‘La Negra Grande de Colombia’ Leonor Gonzalez Mina, known as ‘La negra grande de Colombia,’ emerged as a groundbreaking figure in Colombian music. Born in 1934 in Jamundi, Valle del Cauca, she defied conventions, becoming the first Afro-descendant woman to grace a record cover.

Afro-Colombian women
Leonor Gonzalez Mina. Credit: Juaneslv/CC BY-SA 4.0

Beyond her musical achievements, Gonzalez Mina ventured into politics, representing Bogota in the Colombian House of Representatives. Her impact extends far beyond her 60-year artistic career.

Doris Hinestroza

Trailblazing Mathematician and Educator Doris Hinestroza, born in Darien, Valle del Cauca, in 1954, overcame challenging circumstances to become a distinguished mathematician and educator.

Doris Hinestroza. Credit: Valle University

The first woman to graduate with a master’s in mathematics in 1986, Hinestroza’s journey included obtaining a doctorate in Applied Mathematics from the University of Cincinnati. Her dedication to education and breaking gender and racial barriers serves as an inspiration.

Teresita Gomez

A renowned pianist breaking musical barriers, Teresita Gomez, born in Medellin in 1943, faced discrimination throughout her life but rose to prominence as one of Colombia’s most important pianists.

Afro-Colombian women
Teresita Gomez. Credit: Yeisson Vasquez/CC BY-SA 3.0

Her illustrious career, marked by emotional and expressive performances, challenges the norms in a predominantly white industry. At 77, Gomez continues to impact Colombian music, teaching piano at the University of Antioquia.

‘Lisa de Andrafueda’

Literary Pioneer and Cultural Icon Teresa Martinez de Varela, known as ‘Lisa de Andrafueda,’ broke barriers as one of the first Afro-descendant women to publish literary works.

Afro-Colombian women
Lisa de Andrafueda. Credit: Association of Afro-Latin American and Caribbean Researchers

Born in Quibdo in 1924, she excelled as a poet, musician, dramatist, and social leader. Her groundbreaking contributions to literature opened doors for future generations, and her legacy lives on in the recognition of her vital role in incorporating African identity into Colombian literature.

Maria Isabel Urrutia

‘La Negra de Oro’ in Sports and Politics Maria Isabel Urrutia, born in Candelaria, Valle del Cauca, in 1965, made history as an Olympic gold medalist in weightlifting at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Afro-Colombian women
Maria Isabel Urrutia. Credit: Presidency

Beyond her sporting achievements, Urrutia transitioned into politics, serving as a congresswoman and authoring legislation to support athletes. Her resilience and success have contributed to challenging stereotypes and fostering diversity in Colombian sports.

Francia Marquez

Environmental Activist and Human Rights Champion Francia Marquez, born in 1982 in Cauca, emerged as a prominent leader advocating for environmental and human rights.

Francia Marquez
Colombian Vice President Francia Marquez. Credit: Presidency

Recognized globally, she received the Goldman Prize in 2018 for her relentless fight against illegal mining. Marquez’s commitment to social causes, despite facing threats, positions her as a beacon of resilience and change in Colombia.

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