Afro-Latinos Continue To Make Huge Impacts On Global Politics
World history books do not always include large sections to detail the accomplishments of Afro-Latinos across North America, South America, and the Caribbean. So many Afro-Latinos have thrown their hats in the rings and led their countries through difficult moments and elevated the political discourse needed to push contries forward.
Olympic silver medalist at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Cecilia Tait became a champion off the volleyball court as well in her native Peru when she entered politics 10 years later. After dipping her toes in local politics, she eventually became the first Afro-Peruvian elected to the country’s Congress.
María Isabel Urrutia
Another Afro-Latina Olympic medalist from South America who went into politics once retiring from sports is Colombian María Isabel Urrutia. She won her country’s first Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games and then transferred into politics, holding a seat in the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia.
In 2007, Julio Pinedo, a direct descendant of African slaves in Bolivia, was officially recognized by La Paz as ceremonious king of his Afro-Bolivian community.
“He is a symbolic figure,” Spanish photographer Susana Giron told the New York Times in 2015. “For the Afro-Bolivians, he is important because he gives them a cultural identity. It shows they are a people descended from Africa. It is about their history and culture.”
Benedita da Silva
After Brazil’s military dictatorship ended, black Brazilians started to gain prominence in politics. One such example is Benedita da Silva, Brazil’s first female senator. Her resilient attitude was honed throughout her life, including when she received her high school diploma at the age of 40 and went to college at the same time her daughter was studying.
Her political resume includes becoming a senator, as well as the first Afro-Brazilian governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, and Minister of the Secretary of State.
She is also a fierce advocate for women’s rights in Latin America.
Paula Marcela Moreno Zapat
Paula Marcela Moreno Zapat is a Colombian politician, engineer and college professor. She was appointed in 2007 to serve as Colombia’s Minister of Culture, thus becoming the first Afro-Colombian woman to hold a cabinet position in her country, also the youngest. As part of her work as Minister of Culture, she has put Colombia’s name on the map, literally. She has acquired spots for her home country to exhibit at book fairs, film festivals, concerts, and conferences around the world.
Luis Gilberto Murillo
Another Afro-Colombian engineer who had a successful career in politics is Luis Gilberto Murillo.
In 1998, Murrillo won the governorship for the state of Chocó, becoming one of the youngest people to do so. However, he was stripped from his governorship in 1999 due to what some newspapers and residents called a controversial court ruling.
Murrillo was kidnapped in 2000 in Colombia and after being released a few hours later, he fled the country with his family. He returned in 2011 after mostly working in Washington D.C. and continued to work in politics, most recently as the former minister of Environment and Sustainable Development in Colombia.
He continues to be outspoken for issues on environmental sustainability and has not let the bumps along the road deter him from fighting for causes he is passionate about.
Alta California’s final governor under Mexican rule was Afro-Mexican rancher and politician Pío de Jesús Pico. He served twice as governor and once he gained U.S. citizenship, was asked to be part of the Los Angeles Common Council, although he did not assume the office. If you’re in Los Angeles, you might recognize him as the namesake of Pico Boulevard.
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